New Delhi, Jan. 17: The Supreme Court today asked all states and Union territories for their views on restricting VIP security to top constitutional functionaries, saying such protection was now being provided to “all and sundry”.
A two-judge bench asked the governments to respond within three weeks.
Justices G.S. Singhvi and H.L. Gokhale felt that beacons and security should be withdrawn from those who did not deserve such facilities.
“We can understand if security or sirens are provided to the President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Speaker, Chief Justice of India and other constitutional authorities at the states,” the bench told solicitor-general Rohinton Nariman, who appeared for the Centre, and other counsel representing the states.
“But it is being provided to all and sundry like sarpanches, mukhiyas, chairpersons and all others for whatever reasons. What is the point in giving it to some x and y?”
The court was dealing with a petition filed by an Uttar Pradesh native, Abhay Singh, who said that even persons not considered to be under any threat were being provided VIP security at public cost. Many of them, he contended through senior counsel Harish Salve, were using such facilities only as status symbols.
At an earlier hearing, the court had asked the states, Union territories and the Centre to list the expenses incurred on providing such facilities at public cost.
Last year, Calcutta High Court had directed the Bengal government to take action against those misusing beacons. The court also asked the government to clarify through newspapers and other media channels the posts entitled to beacons.
The directive had come after a man, whose car had been intercepted with an unauthorised beacon, approached the court for anticipatory bail.
At today’s hearing, Salve, who cited the recent Delhi gang rape and media reports, said 30 per cent of the capital’s police were engaged in providing security to so-called VIPs, thus exposing the general public to crime-related problems.
“Why should not the government take a decision to scrap and make it specific as to who all can use red lights? Or blue light,” the bench wondered.
“The use of red lights can be restricted only to constitutional functionaries, ambulances and in some cases army personnel.”
Nariman said the Centre shared the court’s concern that security should be restricted to top functionaries and those whose lives were under threat.
“Our own experience is that nobody bothers. Because when we travel for four kilometres, it makes no difference,” the bench said, adding that even vehicles of Supreme Court judges had beacons but were not taken seriously. What the court meant was that even with beacons fitted on top, such vehicles get caught in traffic snarls.