SPG Act tweaked to ensure that commandoes accompany protectees overseas as well.
The Cabinet Secretariat has, in an executive order, amended the SPG Act, making it mandatory for Special Protection Group personnel to accompany their protectees on foreign trips as well.
Journalists covering the Cabinet Secretariat in New Delhi were told informally on Monday that an executive order had been issued to this effect in September, and copies of the order were shown to select journalists.
The latest executive order, seen by this correspondent, clearly states that as per the new guidelines issued by the Cabinet Secretariat, it will now be mandatory for the SPG protectees to submit every detail of their foreign trips.
Moreover, they have also been asked to provide information regarding some of their previous tours as well.
The SPG Act was enacted by Parliament in 1985 after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, to create an elite force to guard serving and former prime ministers.
In August, the government withdrew the SPG security cover of former prime minister Manmohan Singh. With this, the SPG guards only four people -- Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul Gandhi and daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
News reports suggest that Rahul Gandhi is out of India, and the assistant director posted as his official residence had informed his seniors that the protectee was not in New Delhi.
According to IB reports Rahul Gandhi faces threats from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (which was responsible for the assassination of his father, Rajiv Gandhi) and some other militant outfits.
There have been complaints by SPG officials in the past too that Rahul Gandhi skips the elite SPG protection and does not inform the force of his foreign visits, as is the practice.
However, Sonia Gandhi usually gives in writing about her visits, said an SPG source, though even she does not take SPG commandoes on her foreign trips. She also mentions that it being a private visit, she does not need any security.
Until recently, SPG personnel would accompany the Gandhis till the first leg of their destination after which they would send the personnel back, preferring their own privacy.
The Congress party, however, is upset over the new directive, terming it a violation of Rahul Gandhi's privacy. Reacting to the latest SPG order, the All India Congress Committee called it "surveillance".
However, Rahul Gandhi will comply with the order, said sources in the party.
"Rahul Gandhi is a law-abiding citizen. He has always complied with set norms. If the SPG rules are changed for better security cover, he will follow the new guidelines. It’s not always possible to travel with the entire entourage. Rahul, in the past, has taken two-three SPG personnel along while travelling abroad," they said.