NEW DELHI :
Amid a row over the Centre’s decision to revoke special protection group (SPG) cover from Congress president Sonia Gandhi and senior party leaders Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the Union home ministry on Monday tabled the Special Protection Group (Amendment) Bill, 2019 in the Lok Sabha.
Minister of state for home affairs G.Kishen Reddy tabled the bill in the lower house in the wake of mounting protests by the Congress party over the decision to revoke the Gandhis’ security cover. The bill has yet to be taken up for consideration and passage.
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.
At the same time, it also grants SPG cover to any former prime minister and members of his immediate family “residing with him at the residence allotted to him for a period of five years, from the date he ceases to hold the office of prime minister."
The Union home ministry, earlier this month, withdrew the SPG cover of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. They will now be extended Z-plus protection by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
The decision comes just three months after the Centre pulled out the SPG cover of former prime minister Manmohan Singh. Now, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the only SPG protectee.
The decision to withdraw the security provided by the SPG, the country’s highest grade of protection, is taken only after a review involving the cabinet secretariat and the ministry of home affairs, with inputs from various intelligence agencies.
The SPG is an armed force that provides proximate security to the prime minister. Following the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, the SPG Act was amended to provide protection to all former prime ministers and their families for at least 10 years. In 2002, this was amended again to make a provision for an annual review of SPG protectees and threat assessments.