Justice Markandey Katju-
A big hue and cry have been raised by Congressmen over withdrawal of SPG (Special Protection Group) security cover for Sonia and Rahul Gandhi (though they will still get Z+ security), alleging it is an act of political vendetta. Indian official sources say this was done only after getting reports from multiple intelligence agencies that there was no security threat to them.
Be that as it may, the question which needs to be considered is whether public figures need such high security at all?
It is my belief that if public figures do not do misdeeds, they will hardly face any danger from anyone, and will not need security. That is my personal experience.
When I was a Judge of Allahabad High Court (1991-2004) I would almost daily go for morning walks for several miles on the public roads without any security guard (I only carried a cane to ward off stray dogs). I never received any threat from anyone, though I sometimes even confirmed death sentences. I would go daily from my residence to the High Court and back on a car without any security.
When I was appointed Acting Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court (in August 2004 ), on leaving my residence on my car I saw a policeman on a motor cycle in front, and a gypsy vehicle with half a dozen policemen with automatic rifles behind my car. I asked my secretary, who was travelling with me, who these people were? He said they are my security. I said I don’t need any security, so tell them to buzz off. My secretary replied that under the police regulations a Chief Justice or Acting Chief Justice must have security, so I had no choice in the matter, as the police, and I too, were bound by the rules.
Shortly after I became Chief Justice of Madras High Court in November 2004, I went by train from Chennai ( the principal seat of the High Court ) to Madurai, where a new bench of the High Court had been set up. A huge contingent of policemen was at the Madurai railway station to receive me. From the station I went by car on the 10-mile route to the Madurai High Court bench premises. I saw policemen posted every 100 or 200 yards throughout this route saluting me.
In the evening I called the Inspector General of Police ( southern range ) and told him he should not have posted these policemen at the railway station and en route to the High Court premises. I told him police are for the protection of citizens. But by posting half the police force of Madurai to stand saluting me meant that it had given robbers, thieves and cut throats a field day, as the citizens were left unprotected. I said I had no ego problems, and requested him not to do this again.
The first Prime Minister of India, Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, used to jump into a crowd without security, and yet there was never any threat to him. The famous Chief Minister of Tamilnadu, K.Kamraj always refused any security, and so did Dr BC Roy, the famous CM of West Bengal. This was because at that time most politicians were upright. The need for security arose only thereafter when politicians started doing misdeeds like corruption.
It is widely perceived that Sonia Gandhi was totally corrupt and looted hundreds, if not thousands, of crore rupees, and took them to foreign banks or other secret havens abroad. Though technically Manmohan Singh, as PM, was head of the Indian Government, it is well known he was only a dummy, and the real ruler was Sonia. In fact Manmohan Singh told me this himself, first when I attended a reception given to him by the then Cabinet Secretary BK Chaturvedi, and second when I went to him to ask for pardon to Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar, who I thought had been wrongly convicted ( the exact words used by Manmohan Singh to me were ” Justice Katju, I am not a free man ” ).
Scam followed scam during the UPA rule, not of crores but of lacs of crores of rupees. Though there may not be direct evidence, there is overwhelming circumstantial evidence that Sonia was the main beneficiary of this loot. She ( and Rahul ) were the be all and end all in the Congress party, and all other Congressmen were non entities.
Sonia had evidently been taught by her mother-in-law that the Nehru-Gandhi family were the royals who by divine right had the right to rule India. Everyone in Congress had to blindly accept their leadership, and they treated other Congressmen with disdain, one proof of which was when the Assamese Congress leader Himanta Biswa Sarma ( who later joined BJP in view of his ill treatment ) went to meet Rahul, he could get an audience only after a long wait, and then too for only a few minutes during which Rahul was feeding his dog.
Indira Gandhi, and thereafter her descendants, treated Indians as gullible fools, who would accept the rule of the ‘Royal’ family, no matter what misdeed they committed. The Italian and American Mafia pale into insignificance compared to them.
So why should Sonia and Rahul get any security, far less SPG security? If they have done no misdeed, they should openly say so, and refuse heavy security, like upright Congress leaders in the early years after Independence such as Pt Nehru, Kamaraj, and Dr BC Roy.
[Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own.]