At airports, frisk HC judges, says Supreme Court, picks security over ‘prestige’

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New Delhi | Published: December 15, 2016 12:49:37 PM

Terming the security checks at airports across the country as 'matters of security are not issues of prestige and they are not matters of status', Supreme Court has ruled out interfering into the domain of executive to direct it to include chief justices and judges of high courts in the list of people exempted from frisking.

Terming the security checks at airports across the country as 'matters of security are not issues of prestige and they are not matters of status', Supreme Court has ruled out interfering into the domain of executive to direct it to include chief justices and judges of high courts in the list of people exempted from frisking. (PTI)Terming the security checks at airports across the country as ‘matters of security are not issues of prestige and they are not matters of status’, Supreme Court has ruled out interfering into the domain of executive to direct it to include chief justices and judges of high courts in the list of people exempted from frisking. (PTI)

Terming the security checks at airports across the country as ‘matters of security are not issues of prestige and they are not matters of status’, Supreme Court has ruled out interfering into the domain of executive to direct it to include chief justices and judges of high courts in the list of people exempted from frisking. The apex court also said that high court judges shall continue to be frisked at airports in accordance with the central government’s procedure. Notably, under a list prepared by the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, those exempted from frisking at airports include Chief Justice of India and other judges of the Supreme Court, apart from other constitutional functionaries like the President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Governors, Chief Ministers, Speaker of Lok Sabha, Union Ministers of Cabinet rank, Lieutenant Governors and Cabinet Secretary. A bench led by Chief Justice of India T S Thakur set aside an order passed 11 years ago by the Rajasthan High Court, which had directed the central government and airport authorities to exempt high court judges from pre-embarkation security checks. There are 1,000-odd judges in 24 high courts across the country. The chief justices of High Courts are also exempted from frisking in accordance with a 2005 circular. The Rajasthan High Court had said that frisking high court judges indicates that the government has failed to maintain the status of judges, apart from failing to acknowledge their constitutional position.

Supreme Court also noted that the central government was the best judge to examine issues concerning security, and “the judgment of the Rajasthan High Court is an example of a matter where the court should not have entered.” The bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao, said judges are expected to apply standards which are objective and well defined by law, and founded upon constitutional principle. “Matters of security are not issues of prestige. They are not matters of status,” said the apex court, pointing out that the list of people who should be exempted from frisking does not depend on the warrant of precedence.

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The top court observed said the high court’s suggestions on framing a National Security Policy went beyond the legitimate domain of judicial review. “Formulation of such a policy is based on information and inputs which are not available to the court. The court is not an expert in such matters… gathering of intelligence information, formulation of policies of security, deciding on steps to be taken to meet threats originating both internally and externally are matters on which courts singularly lack expertise,” it said.

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