The news of Arnab Goswami, editor- in-chief of Times Now and popular anchor of the show The Newshour, getting threat based Y-security cover was received with much brouhaha on the internet; especially from the detractors of Arnab as shown in OpIndia’s article here.
One might feel the questioning to be justified. More so in this era of questioning VVIP treatment for eminent persons – a campaign Arnab himself has often spearheaded.
However, when the treatment comes on the heels of terrorism, every argument gets negated.
Arnab Goswami’s show on Times Now has often taken a hawkish stand on Pakistan as opposed to their counterparts. For years media counterparts like NDTV and their journalists like Barkha Dutt have sung the tunes that has found resonance with the Pakistan’s establishment. So much so that Pakistan’s top terror head Hafeez Saeed had even openly endorsed her.
Following the Uri attacks by Pakistan and Surgical strikes by India in response, the nationalist stand of Arnab not only touched a chord with the audience – as reflected by the surge in his viewership – but also made him a target of the Pakistan backed groups. Arnab and his channel have exposed the atrocities in Balochistan by the Pakistani army too, making him a subject of hate.
It should be recalled that Times Now reporters have earlier been attacked in Kashmir, much before the current phase of violence erupted. Arnab is almost synonymous with Times Now, so such physical attacks on him can’t be ruled out.
On the above account, reports that Arnab has threat from Pak based terror outfits should come as no surprise.
On the particular issue of government providing security cover:
Many would ask if the security cover is justified, and why Arnab himself could not pay for his own private security?
The logical explanation to that will be if a gun wielding terrorist does attack Arnab, a private security personnel with a single bore weapon would not by any means provide adequate protection. Moreover, the threat perception was as per IB inputs. It would be laughable to think that IB could coordinate with private security over incoming intel. It’s a matter of national security and secrecy.
For this very reason, highly trained government security would be the right choice.
Now those who’re still not convinced with the argument above, there’s a lesser known legal angle to this.
There exists many levels of security in our country, the highest being SPG (Special Protection Group). Along with the SPG, there are others including Z+, Z, Y etc in decreasing order of threat perception level.
While the SPG security is governed by the Special Protection Group Act, 1988, the rest of the security protocols are decided by the IB, MHA, SSC and the State gogovernments.
As can be seen in the case of Narendra Singh vs The State Of Bihar & Ors on 28 June, 2016, the court stated the following:
In contra, the counsel for the State has submitted that no person can claim as a matter of right a security cover of specified category. Such protection or security cover is provided if the SSC on appraisal of current threat perception finds the person a protected person and makes recommendation. The committee after making such recommendation reviews the cases on periodical basis to analyze the justification for continuing with the security cover provided to the protected person and/or for increase or decrease of the security cover of the protected person.
This shows Arnab didn’t “opt” for security cover, but was assigned by the Government.
The judgment further adds:
Although the protected person is an individual /citizen but the office he holds or the social or political responsibilities he discharges is a relevant consideration in grant of Security Cover to the protected person at the cost of the State.
It has to be noted that there has to be a concrete intelligence – credible and serious – input for the IB to give Arnab this security. Moreover the government is obligated to do so based on Article 21 of our constitution as quoted by the Judgment in J.Jayalalithaa vs The State Of Tamil Nadu on 9 June, 2008.
Article 21 in The Constitution Of India 1949:
Protection of life and personal liberty No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.
The court further added:
Therefore, the Security Review Committee ought to assess the grade and scale of security to be provided to a protectee considering the variable factors, as and when found necessary. The quantum and quality of security cannot remain stagnant or stale, and if they do, it cannot match the devilish designs of the disruptive forces, both from within the country and from alien shores. It is a highly disturbing trend worldwide that such evil forces are adept at using ingenious and innovative devices, to trigger large scale catastrophe and havoc, causing untold sorrow and terrible tragedies. In order to match such terrifying terrorism the nations of the world and their Governments have to upgrade their preparedness and firepower to forestall such events in future. No one can rest when such clandestine and cruel minds are at work to destroy peace, harmony and tranquility in our societies.
In tandem with the judgments and Article 21, the government is obligated to serve Arnab based on a concrete threat, and anyone is free to challenge it in court too.
On the point of paying through taxpayer’s money
There still remains the question of paying for additional security cover from the taxpayer’s money. While in earlier cases like that of Z+ security cover provided for Mukesh Ambani, Mr. Ambani paid from his pocket, it is yet to be known if Arnab does the same.
In the lieu of an existent threat, the security cover is justified. If the threat level rises or drops, who knows Arnab may get upgraded to Z security also or get demoted to Y category respectively as had happened in MS Dhoni’s case. Or it could be completely removed as threats are assessed and reviewed periodically on a regular basis.
(This article was written with inputs from @muglikar_ and @delhi_lawyer)