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SC’s first strike at VIP culture: Red light on cars only for ‘high dignitaries’

SC said state govts cannot enlarge list of VIPs to be given red beacon on their vehicles.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Updated: January 10, 2014 1:30:52 pm

The Supreme Court Tuesday 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”,a bench of Justices G S Singhvi and C Nagappan said their use had to be confined to constitutional authorities and others who require these for effective discharge of their official duties.

However,the term “high dignitaries” has not been defined under motor vehicle laws. The Central and state governments issue notifications periodically to specify those listed under this category. While the Supreme Court’s order aims to limit this list,the appropriate governments are authorised,under law,to take the final decision.

“The use of red lights on the vehicles carrying the holders of constitutional posts will in no manner compromise with the dignity of other citizens and individuals or embolden them to think that they are superior to other people,more so,because this distinction would be available to them only while on duty and would be co-terminus with their tenure,” it said.

Urging the parliament to make laws for imposition of “adequate” and “deterrent” penalty for any misuse,the bench ordered the state governments to revise their lists of “high dignitaries”. The state governments have been given three months to submit their revised lists. The court also gave one month for removing multi-toned horns on vehicles.

“The men in uniform; operational agencies which require unhindered access to the roads for performance of their duty; those engaged in emergency duties such as ambulance services,fire services,emergency maintenance etc,and police vehicles used as escorts or pilots or for law and order duties shall not be entitled to have red lights but lights of other colours,e.g.,blue,white,multi-coloured etc,” it held.

“The red lights symbolise power and a stark differentiation between those who are allowed to use it and the ones who are not. A large number of those using vehicles with red lights have no respect for the laws of the country and they treat the ordinary citizens with contempt. The use of red lights on the vehicles of public representatives and civil servants has perhaps no parallel in the world democracies,” it noted.

The bench said the last four decades have witnessed the best political and executive practices being distorted to a massive extent,and the best example of this is the use of symbols of authority,including red lights on vehicles of public representatives and civil servants of various cadres.

Pointing out that neither the Centre nor the state governments took any steps to check the unauthorised use of red lights and multi-toned horns,the court said criminals use red lights which committing offences because police officials do not check such vehicles. The court order came while hearing a petition related to withdrawal of VIP security of a person,which was later converted into a PIL.

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