The SPG, an elite security force, will now only protect the Prime Minister of India and members of their immediate family living at the official residence. The amendment to the Special Protection Group (SPG) Act, introduced earlier today amid uproar in the Lok Sabha, also states that the period of protection for former Prime Ministers, and their immediate family, will now be capped at 5 years; earlier it could be extended based on review. The changes to the SPG Act, introduced by Home Minister Amit Shah, come only days after the centre withdrew special protection to Gandhi family members.
"(Protection will be given to) former Prime Minister and such members of his immediate family, as are residing with him at the residence allotted to him, for a period of five years from the date he ceases to hold the office of Prime Minister," the amendment reads.
It also states that when proximate security is withdrawn from a former Prime Minister, it stands withdrawn for members of his immediate family as well.
Effectively, this means the 3,500-strong SPG will now protect Prime Minister Narendra Modi only, to the exclusion of all other political leaders.
"It assumes special significance in the geo-political context of the country, its hostile neighbourhood and the multi-layered dimensions of threat the country is exposed to. In recognition of this critical security imperative for the Prime Minister in office, a special enactment was made to constitute the Special Protection Group with the sole objective of providing proximate security to the Prime Minister and members of his immediate family," the amendment adds.
The Special Protection Group (SPG) has been providing security for the Prime Minister of India and their immediate family members for more than 25 years. It was established under the SPG Act that was introduced in 1985 - the year after Congress Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated.
It has been amended in four times till date.
Earlier this month the centre withdrew SPG cover to the Gandhi family - Sonia Gandhi and her children, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. SPG cover to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife, Gursharan Kaur, was withdrawn in August.
Government sources said the decision came after a security review and referred to multiple instances when the Gandhi family "did not cooperate and impeded the smooth functioning of the SPG".
The move provoked a furious response, with party leaders accusing the centre of "playing with the lives" of the three Gandhi family members.
The Gandhi family, which has seen the assassination of two members, has always been among India's most protected, apart from the Prime Minister and a select few. They will now be guarded by Z Plus category protection.
Mrs Gandhi has written a letter to SPG chief Arun Sinha to thank the agency for protecting her family with "dedication and discretion". Mrs Gandhi said the family felt a "great sense of reassurance and confidence" in being protected by the SPG, which she called an outstanding force.