The high court is hearing a petition filed by former deputy chief minister of Punjab Om Parkash Soni, seeking quashing of the order dated May 11, 2022, wherein his security from the “Z” category was de-categorised and security personnel been withdrawn.
The Punjab government has decided to restore the security of all the 424 people whose security had been withdrawn as per a notification dated May 26. The decision, coming close on the heels of the killing of singer Sidhu Moosewala, who was among the protectees whose security was withdrawn, was intimated by the government to the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Thursday.
The security will be restored from June 7.
The state also submitted a report in a sealed cover, as directed by the court during the previous hearing to determine whether the withdrawal / down-gradation / de-categorization of security of the beneficiaries was done on the basis of objective data.
The court also wanted a report on the information regarding the withdrawal of security being available in the public domain.
The High Court is hearing a petition filed by former deputy chief minister of Punjab and Congress leader Om Parkash Soni, seeking quashing of the order wherein his security was downgraded from ‘Z’ category.
His counsel Madhu Dayal told the court that the Punjab Police had withdrawn the security cover of 184 ex-ministers and former MLAs on “pick and choose basis rather than actual threat perception”.
“The withdrawal is a result of populist action being taken by the government, instead of assessment of actual serious threat to the lives of these persons…. Z+ category security has been provided to Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister, Delhi, and Raghav Chadha, MP, Rajya Sabha, Punjab, amongst others,” Dayal argued.
Moosewala, 28, was shot dead a day after his security was withdrawn, leading to widespread outrage.
Giani Harpreet Singh, officiating Jathedar of Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of Sikhs, was among those whose security was pruned. Though the Punjab government restored it within a day, the Jathedar refused to accept it.
Several religious leaders, meanwhile, claimed that pruning of security has been a regular affair even in the past but it was never publicised.
Mohd Mustkeem, the press secretary of Ludhiana’s Shahi Imam, Maulana Mohammad Usman Rehmani Ludhianavi, said his security was restored a day after Moosewala’s murder.
“We got information about the pruning of security on May 28 when we were not in Punjab. The next day Moosewala was murdered. On Monday, we got a message that we need not send the security personnel back,” said Mustkeem.
He said that Shahi Imam’s security has been existing for the past many years and “every year, based on Intelligence Bureau’s survey, the security used to be reduced or increased” on a temporary basis. “But such issues never used to be brought into the public domain. We are surprised as to who came up with the idea of bringing this confidential matter into public domain,” said Mustkeem.
The Shahi Imam had seven personnel in his security detail of which six had been withdrawn, before being restored, said Mustkeem.
Information from Bhaini Sahib, the headquarters of the Namdhari sect, revealed that 10 security personnels were called back. Security had been provided to Uday Singh, who heads the sect, and other members of his family. “The security used to be pruned ever year ahead of Ghallughara Day, which falls on June 6. But the same used to restored by June 7. It (security pruning) is not a new thing, but doing publicity and giving out the list of protectees was definitely a new thing,” said Jagtar Singh from Bhaini Sahib headquarters.
Baba Lakha Singh, head of Nanaksar Kaleran at Jagraon, said that his security was pruned in phases. “During Congress government, some security personnel were taken back…now only one person was left with me and he too was called back. The security has not been restored as of now. But I wonder, what was the need to make the list public. This temporary pruning had been happening in the past as well,” said Baba Lakha Singh
Among the VIPs who had lost their security in the last round of pruning included Giani Raghbir Singh, Jathedar of Takht Kesgarh Sahib in Anandpur Sahib; Sant Niranjan Dass, chief of Dera Sachkhand Ballan in Jalandhar; Satguru Udhay Singh Namdhari, Bhaini Sahib, Ludhiana; Giani Jagtar Singh, head granthi at Golden Temple in Amritsar; Baba Lakha Singh, Gurdwara Nanaksar Kaleran wale, Jagraon; and Sant Tarminder Singh, dera chief of Kahna Dhesian, Goraya in Jalandhar.
Ten personnel deployed to protect Dera Radha Soami Satsang, Beas; nine of Dera Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan, Noormahal, and six to guard Shahi Imam Punjab, Mohammad Usman Ludhianvi, were also withdrawn.
The MLAs whose security was rolled back included Shiromani Akali Dal legislator from Majitha seat Ganieve Kaur Majithia, Congress MLA from Jalandhar Cantonment Pargat Singh and AAP MLA from Ludhiana North Madan Lal Bagga.
The security cover of former Congress MLAs Kuljit Singh Nagra, Balwinder Singh Laddi, Harminder Gill, Madan Lal Jalalpur, Surjit Dhiman, Hardial Kamboj and Sukhpal Bhullar, former BJP and SAD legislators Dinesh Babbu, Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, Kanwarjit Singh and Gurpartap Singh Wadala was also dropped.
Others who lost their security cover included former MLA and BJP leader Fateh Jang Bajwa, former minister Tikshan Sood and BJP chief spokesperson Anil Sareen.
The security of former Punjab Vidhan Sabha speakers Rana KP Singh and Nirmal Singh Kahlon, former deputy speaker Ajaib Singh Bhatti and former MP Shamsher Singh Dullo was also withdrawn.
Iqbal Singh Lalpura, chairperson, National Commission for Minorities; Sanjay Srivastava, chairman of Bhakra Beas Management Board; former Rajya Sabha MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa; Raj Bahadur, vice chancellor of Baba Farid University of Health Sciences; and l former MP Rajiv Shukla were the other prominent leaders whose protection was rolled back.