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Legal

Updated on: Wednesday, January 12, 2022, 11:20 PM IST

FPJ Legal: Supreme Court appoints panel headed by ex-judge Indu Malhotra to probe PM Modi's security lapse

Supreme Court  | PTI

Supreme Court | PTI

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Former Supreme Court judge Ms Indu Malhotra will head a 5-member independent inquiry committee set up on Wednesday by the Supreme Court to probe the security breach during PM Modi's visit to Punjab.

"We are of the opinion that these questions can't be left to a one-sided inquiry," Chief Justice of India N V Ramana said, reading out from the court's order, two days after the court decided to conduct the probe itself.

Justice Indu Malhotra, who was a Supreme Court judge from April 2018 to March 2021, had her education in Delhi and has practised in the Capital. She was appointed judge directly from the bar in 2018.

The others in the inquiry committee are: Director General of National Investigation Agency (NIA) or his nominee who is not below the rank of an Inspector General; the Director General of Police of the Union Territory of Chandigarh; the Additional Director General of Police (Security) of Punjab; and the Registrar General of Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Without fixing any time limit for completing the probe, the order said the committee should submit its report at the earliest.

The court's constitution of this high-profile committee effectively arrests the functioning of the separate panels formed by Punjab and the Centre to investigate the breach. The court had earlier asked the Punjab and Haryana High Court's Registrar General to seize and preserve the security records in connection with the incident.

The committee's terms of reference include ascertaining the causes of breach; assessing who was responsible for it and to what extent; what remedial measures and safeguards are necessary to prevent a similar lapse; and further suggestions for security of constitutional functionaries.

In his order, the CJI said: "A judicial trained and independent mind duly assisted by officers well-acquainted with the security considerations and the Registrar General of the High Court, who has seized the records pursuant to our orders, will be best suited to look into all the issues and submit a confidential report for the consideration of this court."

Until the committee's report is submitted, the Centre and the Punjab government are restrained from taking any action, including serving show-cause notices on officers, the order said.

A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli was hearing a PIL filed by Delhi-based NGO Lawyers Voice, which has sought action against officials responsible for the security lapse.

During the hearing, Punjab Advocate General DS Patwalia had objected to the issue of show-cause notices by the central government to Punjab's chief secretary and director-general of police, arguing that the notices showed that they had already concluded that these officers were guilty of the lapses.

"I will not get a fair hearing from the central government. Please appoint an independent committee to give us a fair hearing," he had told the judges on January 10.

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Published on: Wednesday, January 12, 2022, 11:20 PM IST
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