Justice Singhvi leads by example: How are SC judges allowed sirens?

The court asked how ministers were allowed to use sirens.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Updated: April 8, 2014 5:37 pm

The Supreme Court turned the spotlight upon itself on Monday,asking the government to specify the rule that allowed vehicles of apex court judges to use sirens.

“How do you (Centre) permit Supreme Court judges to use sirens? We would like to know the rule concerned,” a bench of Justices G S Singhvi and V Gopala Gowda said as issues over the use of sirens by “high dignitaries” came up.

The court asked how ministers were allowed to use sirens,and pointed out that Finance Minister P Chidambaram did not have a beacon and siren when he was home minister. “It is paradoxical,” the court said. “If a union home minister does not need all this,who else should need it?”

Additional Solicitor General Sidharth Luthra,who listed the functionaries allowed to use red beacons and sirens,told the bench that only the pilot vehicle moving ahead of a judge’s car used a siren. “No,you may not know it but all the vehicles have sirens,” the court retorted.

Justice Singhvi said his official car did not have a red beacon,“but the security personnel in the court are protesting. They say their instructions are being violated. They say how can they identify that a judge is in the car?”

The court indicated that it would allow only constitutional authorities to use beacons and sirens on their vehicles,and only in extraordinary situations. “Even the CJI is stopped when the convoy of Prime Minister passes. We had such an episode when (former CJI) Justice S P Bharucha was stopped. CJI’s vehicle has a red beacon but it still happens,” the court said.

The bench asked how a beacon could enhance an official’s capacity to work,and made it clear that everyone with a minister’s status does not also become a high dignitary. The bench sought a categorical definition of the term “high dignitaries,” underlining that a very “liberal” use of this term could not be made the basis of differentiating between ordinary citizens and others.

The bench said that the red beacon light had become a “virtual reflection of the Raj days”.

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