Parliament passes SPG (Amendment) Bill, 2019
The SPG Amendment bill states that if the SPG cover is withdrawn from a former Prime Minister, it shall also stand withdrawn from his immediate family members.
The Special Protection Group (Amendment) Bill, 2019 has been passed in the Parliament. The bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha on December 3, 2019 amidst a walkout by the Indian National Congress.
The Lok Sabha had passed the SPG bill earlier on November 27, 2019. The SPG (Amendment) Bill, 2019 proposes to provide security to the Prime Minister and the members of his immediate family, who are residing with him at the official residence.
The SPG bill also proposes to provide security to former prime ministers and their immediate family members residing with him at the official residence allotted to him for five years.
The SPG (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was introduced in the lower house of the parliament by the Union Home Minister Amit Shah on November 25, 2019. The bill seeks to amend the Special Protections Group Act, 1988.
SPG (Amendment) Bill, 2019: Objective
The Union Home Minister Amit Shah stated that the main objective behind introducing the amendment was to make the SPG act more effective in ensuring the security of the Prime Minister.
• The act provided for the constitution and regulation of the SPG to provide security to the Prime Minister, former Prime Ministers and their immediate family members.
• Under the act, the SPG security cover is to be provided to the Prime Minister, his immediate family members, former Prime Ministers and their immediate family members for one year from the date they cease to hold the office.
• Beyond this, the act proposed to provide SPG security based on the level of threat as decided by the Union Government.
• The SPG Act stated that if the SPG security cover is withdrawn from a former Prime Minister, it will also be withdrawn from his immediate family members unless the threat level faced by the family member warrants such security.
• The act provided that the SPG security will be provided in cases where the threat:
1. Emanates from a military or terrorist organization
2. Is of a grave and continuing nature
SPG (Amendment) Bill, 2019: Key Features
• The SPG (Amendment) Bill, 2019 amends the SPG Act and states that the SPG security will be provided to the Prime Minister and his immediate family members living with him at his official residence.
• The bill also states that the SPG security will be provided to former Prime Minister and his immediate family members, who reside with him at the officially allotted residence for 5 years from the date he ceases to hold the office.
• The SPG (Amendment) Bill, 2019 amends the SPG act’s condition to continue the SPG cover of the PM’s immediate family members if the level of perceived threat is high in case of withdrawal of the SPG cover to the former Prime Minister.
• The bill states that if the SPG cover is withdrawn from a former Prime Minister, it shall also stand withdrawn from his immediate family members. This means that in case of death of an ex-PM dies, the SPG security would be withdrawn from his immediate family members.
• Under the bill’s provisions, only those family members will be provided with SPG security cover, who stay with the PM or former PM at the allotted residence.
The SPG Act amendment bill was moved just days after the centre decided to withdraw SPG security cover for Congress President Sonia Gandhi, former Congress President Rahul Gandhi and Congress Gen Secretary Priyanka Gandhi. The SPG cover was also withdrawn from former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier in the year.
The Gandhis and the former PM are now protected under the "Z plus" security cover of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). The government stated that the decision was taken after reviewing the threat level.
Home Minister Amit Shah while moving the bill stated that the security cover has not been removed from the Gandhi family but it has been changed to Z Plus security with CRPF and Ambulance. He stated that the bill should not be seen as a political vendetta, as the decision to withdraw the highest-level security cover was taken after proper professional threat assessment.
The Union Government stated that the SPG (Amendment) Bill, 2019 lays focus solely on the security of the Prime Minister, as ensuring the security of the head of the government is of great importance for governance and national security.
What is SPG?
The SPG is the highest tier of security, which was set up in 1985 to protect the Prime Minister of India after the assassination of late PM Indira Gandhi by her bodyguards in October 1984.
Though the SPG was initially constituted to provide proximate security to the PM and his immediate family members, the SPG Act was amended in 1991 to provide security cover to former PMs and their immediate families after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1992.