Priyanka Gandhi Vadra seeks withdrawal of family`s special privileges at airports, writes to SPG

Congress president Sonia Gandhi`s daughter Priyanka Gandhi on Friday wrote a letter to the Director of Special Protection Group (SPG), asking for withdrawal of special airport exemptions provided to her and family.

Zee Media Bureau

New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi`s daughter Priyanka Gandhi on Friday wrote a letter to the Director of Special Protection Group (SPG), asking for withdrawal of special airport exemptions provided to her and family.

The plea came hours after reports claim today that government is considering cancellation of such a facility to Priyanka`s husband Robert Vadra.

In a letter to the SPG chief Durga Prasad, she referred to media reports of possible removal of her husband Robert Vadra`s name from the list of security protectees exempt from security checks at the airport and said she would appreciate if it is done at the earliest.

She added Vadra`s inclusion on that list came about at the instance of previous SPG chiefs and Delhi Police and not upon any request by "either of us who were informed after the fact".

"Since the government is now reportedly considering the removal of his name, I would like to inform you that I do not feel it will be correct for my children and me to avail of the facility of exemption of these checks while entering or exiting the airport when we are all travelling together.

It is only right for us to go through the normal channel at the airport and be frisked etc. As per normal procedure at such times as you will appreciate that it makes no sense for a family travelling together to fall under different categories of exemption," Priyanka said.

She recalled that the facility for Vadra was done ostensibly to facilitate the coordination of the two separate security agencies at the airport when they travelled together.

"Ever since then, it has been a source of constant embarrassment for my husband who has asked me on numerous occasions to have it removed as, in any case, he goes through the full security check and procedure from the normal channel every time he is traveling on his own.

I had verbally conveyed this to the previous Director and the AIG, SPG, in charge of my security detail on a number of occasions but no action was ever taken on it," Gandhi said.

Gandhi said she would appreciate if the SPG could put this into practice as soon as the government order canceling her husband`s exemption comes into force.

"I would also request you to ensure that when we are entering or exiting the boarding gates there is no disturbance to other passengers and that my security detail behaves in a manner that is discreet and strictly unobtrusive," she said adding "Thank you for your co-operation and understanding."

Priyanka and Robert Vadra, are currently on a list of VIPs which permits them skip security checks at airports within India.

However, the SPG sources said they will consult intelligence agencies over removing privileges to Priyanka and Robert Vadra at airports.

The development came a day after the newly appointed Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju dropped hints of stripping Robert of his frisking immunity in airports.

On being asked whether Vadra would continue to be in the VIP list and not be checked at airports, Raju said, "Security should be meaningful and not ornamental. It will depend if the Home Ministry feels there is a threat perception, and I am not talking about Vadra, we`ll have to see."
Frisking immunity in India is usually enjoyed by important national as well as international dignitaries and the Vadra’s immunity is one such issue, which has always raised eyebrows and the Opposition parties also came down heavily on this.

It needs to be mentioned here that Vadra is the only civilian who enjoys frisking immunity in India.

After Narendra Modi-led government took charge, a senior BCAS official had said, "We are expecting the list of those exempted from frisking to get trimmed under the new NDA government."

Some sources within the Civil Aviation Ministry had said that the outgoing Manmohan Singh-led government did everything to scuttle the various RTI applications filed to seek information regarding the reasons behind Vadra`s name being included in the elite list.

The Home Ministry had once replied to a RTI application saying that Vadra has been included in the list as he is accompanied by Priyanka Gandhi, who is protected by Special Protection Group (SPG).

During the election campaign, Modi and Arun Jaitley had said there will be no witch-hunt against Vadra and law will be allowed to take its own course.

With agency inputs

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