The Delhi High Court on Friday asked the Centre and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in the national capital to place before it the rules regarding display of just the State Emblem of India on the cars of the constitutional authorities and dignitaries, such as the President, instead of their registration numbers.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar directed both the governments to check the position and inform it before the next date of hearing, December 20.
“There must be some protocol/rule with regard to the issue raised in the writ petition. Please ascertain the exact position and inform this court,” the bench said.
The court’s directions came on a plea seeking to enforce the display of registration number on cars of constitutional authorities and dignitaries. The petition, filed by an NGO, claimed that the practice of displaying the state emblem, the four lions, instead of the registration numbers, make the cars conspicuous and the dignitaries become easy targets for terrorists and anyone with malicious intent.
“The practice of replacing the registration mark with the State Emblem of India, instead of displaying them both is arbitrary and symptomatic of the desire to rule rather than to serve,” the petition has alleged.
The plea, filed by NGO Nyayabhoomi, also sought direction to the Delhi government and Delhi Police to seize the cars used by the Rashtrapati Bhawan, Vice President, Raj Niwas and Protocol division of the Ministry of External Affairs for not being registered under the Motor Vehicles Act.
The plea referred to an RTI response by the Ministry of External Affairs saying that none of its 14 cars maintained by its protocol division were registered.
On the other hand, the plea claimed that the Rashtrapati Bhawan refused to supply the registration numbers of its cars on the ground that disclosure of this information would endanger the security of the state and life and physical safety of the President.
It said a person meeting with an accident involving such a car cannot bring any claim against it as due to the absence of any identification mark, the vehicle’s ownership cannot be known and the citizens get the message that if a dignitary could disobey the law and get away with it, so could they.
It also sought prosecution of the owners of cars being used by such dignitaries in a time-bound manner and sought a direction to the ministries of home affairs and external affairs to register the cars used by the dignitaries and obtain their insurance policies.