The Supreme Court on Monday said that only the Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court judges and the Chief Justices of the high courts are exempted from pre-embarkation security checks at the airports and high court judges do not enjoy the facility.
Finding fault with the Rajasthan High Court directing the extension of exemption from pre-embarkation security checks on the grounds that they held constitutional office, the bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice L. Nageswara Rao in their judgment said that the matter of security was not an issue of prestige.
Setting aside the May 13, 2005 judgment of the Rajasthan High Court, Justice Chandrachud, speaking for the bench, said: "Matters of security are not issues of prestige. They are not matters of 'status'" and do not depend "only on the warrant of precedence".
Allowing the appeal against the high court order, the top court referred to the Union government's stand that only those people are exempted from pre-embarkation security checks who are under the government security on a 24x7 basis.
This would virtually preclude the possibility of any prohibited or dangerous items being introduced on board an aircraft through his or her baggage, the court noted being told by the government.
The security perception of the Union government is that "no exemption can be granted to a dignitary if he/she is not under effective government security coverage on a 24x7 basis", the judgment said referring to the position spelt out by the government.
As far as heads of foreign missions are concerned, they are exempted from pre-embarkation security checks on a reciprocal basis, the court said referring to the government's position.
The Rajasthan High Court's 2005 orders had passed direction in a suo motu matter taking cognizance of media report of a person with a revolver and live cartridges had nearly boarded an aircraft.
"What we have said above is to emphasise that the view of the Union government is based on a considered assessment of security perceptions and ought not to have been interfered with in the manner that the High Court did in the exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 226 (of the Constitution)," said the apex court judgment.