Security cover for individuals in India

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Criteria for providing security to individuals

Should be based on threat, not paying capacity: SC

Dhananjay Mahapatra, October 28, 2020: The Times of India

The Supreme Court dismissed a petition seeking withdrawal of Zplus security cover to the Ambani brothers and their family members but frowned upon the Bombay high court’s view that police should provide high level security to those who perceived a threat to their life and were willing to pay for it.

A special leave petition by Himanshu Agarwal challenged a Bombay HC order dismissing his PIL, by which he had sought withdrawal of Z-plus security cover to the Ambani brothers and their family on the ground that they were rich enough to arrange for their own security instead of the state providing it by spending from the public exchequer.

The HC had said, “It is the duty of the state to ensure maintenance of law and order which includes providing security to such citizens who require the same to protect their lives. The revenue of Reliance Industries Limited corporation has a substantial impact on India’s GDP. The threat perception of these private individuals cannot be lightly ignored to deny protection to their lives.”

Agarwal, through counsel Karan Bharihoke, told a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R S Reddy and M R Shah that extension of Z-plus security to private persons “without any concrete proof of any real threat to them indicates an element of favouritism which is uncalled for, considering the fact that the same constituted a part of central government’s resources”.

The bench looked for the state counsel but no one was present. Appearing for the respondents, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi said there was a threat perception to the industrialists and their families. “We are paying for the cost of security cover extended to us by the government,” Rohatgi said. Bharihoke responded, “It is a personal perception about threat to life. ”

The bench asked, “If any citizen perceives a threat to his life and is willing to bear the cost of the security cover, should the state provide it? When was the last time the threat perception to the respondent was reviewed by the state? We don’t want to approve that the state should provide security cover to private individuals, if he/she has the capacity to pay for it.”

The bench dismissed the appeal, but said the state would periodically review the threat perception to the Ambanis and take appropriate measures towards providing them security. Rohatgi said the Ambanis were ready to pay for it. The bench said, ”We have no doubt you can pay for it.”

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