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Is term ‘high dignitaries’ legal? SC to examine

The court agreed to look into the constitutional validity of section 108(1) of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989.

New Delhi |
February 4, 2014 3:08:09 am

The Supreme Court Monday agreed to examine the constitutional validity of the term “high dignitaries”, which entitles politicians, public servants and others to have red beacon atop their vehicles.

“The term ‘high dignitaries’ appears to be contrary to democratic ethos. Where is the question of a high or a low dignitary? Whosoever holds a public office is a dignitary…this is liable and prone to be misused,” observed a Bench of Justices R M Lodha and Shiva Kirti Singh.

The court agreed to look into the constitutional validity of section 108(1) of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989, that allows VIPs to use red beacon lights.

The Bench allowed senior advocate Harish Salve, who is assisting the court as amicus curiae in a PIL on limiting the use of red beacon and VIP security, to move an application in this regard.

It also sought to know from Salve if there were examples from other republics on red beacon that can be referred to while dealing with the matter.

Salve submitted he had checked the relevant rules in the US and Britain and even in Britain, the Prime Minister does not use beacon lights atop his vehicles. In the US also, there is nothing of the kind and security is provided to people very discreetly, he told the court.

During the proceeding, the court also regretted the reluctance displayed by the state governments to usher in police reforms so as to make sure the police function as an independent agency.

The court had in December ruled that red beacon lights on vehicles can only be used by people listed as “high dignitaries”, that too only when they are on duty.

Stating that the red beacons and multi-toned horns are reflective of “Raj mentality” and “an antithesis of the concept of a republic”, the court had said their use had to be confined to constitutional authorities and others who require these for effective discharge of their official duties.

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