The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered that industrialist Mukesh Ambani and his four immediate family members be provided Z+ security cover across the country and abroad, and directed the State of Maharashtra and the Union Home Ministry to ensure that the same is done [Union of India vs Bikash Saha and ors]
A bench of Justices Krishna Murari and Ahsanuddin Amanullah observed that the existing security cover at the family’s expense cannot be restricted to their State of residence (Maharashtra) if there is a security threat.
“we are of the considered opinion that if there is a security threat, the security cover provided and that too at own expense of the respondents, cannot be restricted to a particular area or place of stay. Looking into the business activities of the respondent nos. 2 to 6 (Ambani and his family members) within the country as also outside the country, the very purpose of providing security cover would stand frustrated, if the same is restricted to a particular place or area,” the Court said.
The Court, therefore, directed that highest level security cover is provided to Mukesh Ambani, Neeta Ambani, Akash Ambani, Anant Ambani and Isha Ambani for which the expenses have to be borne by the Ambani family.
The Court passed the following directions after Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Ambanis, submitted that they were at a continued risk of being targeted so as to financially destabilise the country:
(i) Highest Z+ Security Cover provided to respondent nos. 2 5 to 6 shall be available all across India and the same is to be ensured by the State of Maharashtra and Ministry of Home Affairs.
(ii) Highest Level Z+ Security Cover, as per the policy of Government of India, be also provided, while respondent nos. 2 to 6 are traveling abroad and the same shall be ensured by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
(iii) The entire expenses and cost of providing Highest level Z+ Security Cover to respondent nos. 2 to 6 within the territory of India or abroad shall be borne by them.
The Supreme Court had in July 2022 allowed the Central government to continue providing security cover to industrialist Mukesh Ambani and his family members.
In June that year, a vacation bench had stayed orders passed by the Tripura High Court seeking the original records of the threat perception to the Ambani family.
The High Court had directed that the same be submitted in a sealed cover.
This order was passed in a public interest litigation (PIL) moved against the grant of security to Ambani and his family members. It was submitted to the Court that the family was being provided security by the government based on an acute threat perception as found by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs.
However, the Central government refused to submit the status report, arguing that the issue had already been decided by the Bombay High Court.
The Central government then approached the Supreme Court in appeal, and argued that the PIL before the High Court was filed by an individual person who had no locus in the matter and was just a “meddlesome interloper”.
Further, a similar PIL with identical prayers was filed before the Bombay High Court, but was dismissed, and that order was confirmed by the Supreme Court.
Additionally, it was informed that ‘Z+’ category security was given to Mukesh Ambani in 2013 and ‘Y+’ category Central Police Reserve Force (CRPF) cover was given to his wife Neeta Ambani in 2016 on the basis of inputs and assessment reports received from intelligence and investigation units.
It was pointed out that neither were the Ambanis residents of Tripura, nor did any cause of action in the matter arise in the State.
The instant order by the top court came in a miscellaneous application filed by the original petitioner before the Tripura High Court. The petitioner contended that the July 2022 order of the apex court could be misinterpreted to mean that the security detail should be limited to Maharashtra.
The Ambanis, however, submitted the family has business across the world as well, and the philanthropic activities of their foundation extend to the remotest parts of the country. This made essential the highest level of security cover for them.
The bench noted that the original petitioner had no locus after the top court had upheld the Bombay High Court order dismissing a similar PIL.
However, it passed the directions to put a ‘quietus’ to the issue that had become ‘the subject matter of controversy’ at different places and High Courts.