Union Home Minister Amit Shah. Photo: ANI
Union Home Minister Amit Shah. Photo: ANI

Centre, Congress spar over SPG (Amendment) Bill in Lok Sabha

  • Centre to withdraw SPG cover from the party’s top leadership
  • Centre had on Monday tabled the Special Protection Group Bill in the Lok Sabha

Congress' protest over the proposed amendments to the Special Protection Group (Amendment) Bill, 2019, reached the Lok Sabha on Wednesday as Union home minister Amit Shah began debate on the matter.

The government and the Congress locked horns over the move of the Centre to withdraw SPG cover from the party’s top leadership, with senior Congress leaders raising the issue both inside and outside Parliament. The party alleged that the Centre had left these leaders vulnerable to security threats.

Earlier this month, the Union home ministry, following a “threat assessment", withdrew the SPG cover from Congress president Sonia Gandhi and senior party leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, three months after pulling out former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s SPG cover.

“The PM is head of the government and that’s why in the world in a lot of countries, there are different groups to protect the Head of the state, their offices, their communication and their offices and just like that – SPG should be more efficient and should not be hindered in operations," Amit Shah said in the Lower House as he began discussion on the Bill.

The Centre had on Monday tabled the bill in the Lok Sabha.

Speaking on behalf of the Congress, senior party leader Manish Tewari asked the Centre why the SPG cover had been pulled away from Singh and the Gandhi family without amending the Bill.

“Is threat assessment a perfect science? No it is not. This threat assessment process is subjective. When a PM or his family is removed from post, do those threats and challenges go away? No it does not. If the people want to kill, they wait for the time when security is least. This is a very important factor which the House must take into account," Tewari said, quoting the Justice Verma report on the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, which said the former prime minister had not been given adequate SPG cover at that time.

The party also said all former prime ministers and their families must be given SPG cover till they are alive.

“Just because someone is not PM, it does not mean that after he steps down from office, the threat vanishes," Tewari added.

The proposed amendments, if passed by both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, will pave the way for just the prime minister and his “immediate family residing with him at his official residence" to be given SPG cover.