The ‘Z’ and ‘Z-Plus’ category security of VVIPs has come into a sharp focus again as the Delhi High Court has issued notices to the Union of India on a petition by one Payal Abdullah, estranged wife of former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, seeking government accommodation for her and her sons on the ground that they enjoyed ‘Z’ and ‘Z-Plus’ security status.
Under the domestic violence Act (DV Act), the husband has to secure the same level of accommodation to an estranged wife. But this petition raises another issue: whether an estranged wife is entitled to the same level of a VVIP accommodation as her former husband by being in the top security coverage.
Normally such petitions are thrown out at the initial stage itself, as a single bench did. However, a division bench of Delhi High Court, led by its Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal, issued a notice to the Centre and sought their response to Payal’s appeal challenging the single judge’s 19th August, 2016, order asking her to vacate the 7 Akbar Road bungalow in Lutyen’s Delhi where she was residing till Omar Abdullah allegedly ‘threw her out’ and in the evening of 22nd August, she was evicted. The single bench dismissed her petition without mentioning any date or time.
A question of law, that is relevant here, relates to the Public Premises Act which stipulates that no unauthorised occupant shall occupy any public premises. But under the law relating to ‘Z’ and ‘Z-plus’ category protectees, Payal said she was a “Central government protectee” and deserved a similar accommodation. This plea was opposed by the Central government. But Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi have been given the same level of security and are in the same level of accommodation. Rahul Gandhi is now a Member of Parliament and Priyanka is not. However, even before Rahul Gandhi became an MP, he was provided with the facilities extended to all protectees under the Z and Z-plus categories.
Now, Payal claims that she and her sons were living in a rented accommodation not suitable for security reasons. Her argument is that putting into service the armed public auxiliary servants of different forces is in violation of the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act. Further under the same Act, possession of a public premises cannot be taken after sunset but she and her sons were evicted after sunset on 22 August.
This case has raised several interesting questions regarding VVIP accommodation in the plush Lutyens Delhi and several such ‘hollowed’ people masquerading as VVIPs at the cost of the common man. Recently, two such VVIPs who refused to leave their father’s government-given accommodation in the same locality were evicted. One was (and is) the son of a former prime minister and the other a daughter of a union minister. Unless such practices are stopped, and husband and wife battles do not spin off into political and legal wrangles, this VVIP culture may not stop in India.