The formal statement in the high court was in response to a petition by former deputy CM Om Prakash Soni, questioning the Bhagwant Mann-led government’s decision to revoke his security detail. Moose Wala was fatally shot multiple times while out in his vehicle along with a friend in his native village of Jawaharke in Mansa district on May 29, a day after his security was withdrawn.
Blamed by many for Moose Wala’s murder, the state government maintained in court that security cover to the 400-odd “protectees” had been temporarily withdrawn because resources needed to be diverted as part of law-and-order requirements on the anniversary of Operation Blue Star. Security was to be automatically restored on June 7, it said.
A sealed report on the controversy was submitted to the bench of Justice Raj Mohan Singh by the government’s law officer, advocate Gaurav Garg Dhuriwala.
Much of the criticism coming the AAP government’s way has been centred on “public dissemination” of the list of people whose security was withdrawn or pruned for whatever reason.
On May 30, the high court asked the government to explain the basis on which it had withdrawn protection to at-risk individuals. The court also wanted to know why the government made public the identities of the protectees who were suddenly left without state security.
Petitioner Soni had sought quashing of the May 11 order downgrading his Z-category security, citing threats to his life.
Soni, an MLA from 1992 till 2022, said security to 184 former ministers and MLAs had been revoked on “a pick-and-choose basis” rather than actual threat perception. The withdrawal of security was part of populist action by the government that made light of the danger to the lives of the at-risk individuals, he alleged.
The Congress veteran claimed the AAP government was providing Z-plus security to its own flock as status symbols, including the Delhi CM, despite these people not being residents of Punjab or facing any threat.
“Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann has already marked a high-level inquiry into the aspects of security reduction to fix responsibility…The social media posts of the party being cited by rivals are based on news reports on that day,” AAP’s chief spokesperson Malvinder Singh Kang said on Thursday.
CM Mann met AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi during the day to discuss the law and order situation in Punjab, among other things, sources said.