Manmohan Singh’s SPG cover withdrawn, Z-plus security remains

NEW DELHI : The top Special Protection Group (SPG) cover given to Manmohan Singh has been withdrawn, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said Monday. The former prime minister will continue to get Z-plus security. The decision, the MHA said, was taken after a three-month review involving the Cabinet Secretariat and the Ministry with inputs from various intelligence agencies.

“The current security cover review is a periodical and professional exercise based on threat perception that is purely based on a professional assessment by security agencies. Dr Manmohan Singh continues to have Z+ security cover,” the MHA statement said.

With the removal of SPG cover from Singh, the top-notch security cover will now be given only to PM Narendra Modi and the Gandhis — Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka. After SPG, the Z-plus security cover is one of the highest protection to be given by one of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs), preferably by the CRPF.

According to procedures laid down by the SPG Act, 1988, Singh was entitled to SPG cover for one year after he demitted office in 2014. His SPG security cover was renewed annually after a review of the threats faced by him and his wife Gursharan Kaur. Singh’s daughters, who were also given SPG cover, gave up the protection voluntarily in 2014.

After Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination in 1991, the SPG Act was amended to offer SPG protection to all former prime ministers and their families for at least 10 years. The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government conducted a review of the SPG’s functioning and decided to withdraw the SPG protection given to former prime ministers P V Narasimha Rao, H D Deve Gowda and I K Gujral.

In 2003, the Vajpayee government again 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. While former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who demitted office in 2004, had SPG protection until he passed away in 2018.