The Narendra Modi government is likely to withdraw the Special Protection Group (SPG) from former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s security.

How the decision has been taken?
The decision, reportedly taken after a three-month review involving the Cabinet Secretariat and the Ministry of Home Affairs with inputs from intelligence agencies the Research and Analysis Wing and the Intelligence Bureau has not yet been formally communicated in writing, but was “orally” conveyed to the former Prime Minister.

Who all are covered?
This would mean that the elite protection force of about 3,000 officers meant for the Prime Ministers, the former Prime Ministers and their families would now be tasked with protecting only Mr. Modi, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her children Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

Procedure adopted for giving security cover

According to an official privy to the development, who asked not to be identified, the government had, according to the procedures laid down by the SPG Act, 1988, renewed Dr. Singh’s SPG detail for a year after he demitted office in 2014, and subsequently, on an annual basis after reviewing the threats faced by him and his wife Gursharan Kaur. (Dr. Singh’s daughters, who were also eligible, had given up SPG cover voluntarily in 2014).

However, on May 25 this year, the government decided not to fully renew the SPG cover, and instead ordered a three-month review process.

Criticism for decision
Plans for the move raised some eyebrows within the security establishment. One official said that while the government was technically within the law to withdraw SPG protection to any former Prime Minister, it had chosen not to do so for Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who demitted office in 2004 and had SPG protection until he passed away in 2018. A prolonged illness had kept Vajpayee home-bound for the past decade.

About Special Protection Group
The SPG was set up in 1985 after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and Parliament passed the SPG Act in 1988 dedicating the group to protecting the Prime Minister of India. At the time, the Act did not include former Prime Ministers, and when V.P. Singh came to power in 1989 his government withdrew SPG protection to the outgoing PM Rajiv Gandhi. After Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in 1991 the SPG Act was amended, offering SPG protection to all former Prime Ministers and their families for a period of at least 10 years.

During his tenure that began in 1999, PM Vajpayee’s government conducted a major review of the SPG’s operations, and decided to withdraw SPG protection to former PMs P.V. Narasimha Rao, H.D. Deve Gowda, and I.K. Gujral.

In 2003, the Vajpayee government also amended the SPG Act to bring the period of automatic protection down from 10 years to “a period of one year from the date on which the former Prime Minister ceased to hold office and beyond one year based on the level of threat as decided by the Central Government.”