Since tinted glass has many uses, will SC revisit the total ban?

Since tinted glass has many uses, will SC revisit the total ban?

‘Rose-tinted glasses’, is an idiom which means being overly optimistic, seeing only the pleasant side of things or situations. Modern usage of the idiom however, could denote prejudiced views.

The apex court has pronounced that the governments must implement the Motor Vehicles Act’s provisions on tinted glasses. Was this a case of looking at the issue through ‘tinted glasses’? If so, they were not rose-tinted! The ‘pleasant side’ of cars with tinted glass windows was ignored. The apex court perhaps missed a trick or two in overlooking an opportunity to examine the validity and rationale of the provisions of the law.

Most countries have laws governing the use of tinted glasses in cars. There does not seem to be much rationale behind the laws. A belief that they cause accidents is one reason. Do they? Is there statistics to prove this? It does not appear to be backed by statistical evidence. The ubiquitous nature of the law could be a case of ‘monkey see, monkey do’. Considerable variation exists in the details of the law in countries and among states within countries. In India, the law was not implemented for long.

Now, traffic police have come out with a vengeance in enforcing this archaic rule. Its enforcement gives another opportunity to the more enterprising and unscrupulous among the traffic police to make a quick buck on the side. How would police decide on the amount of light transmission? Would they always carry light meters? Would the meters be always well calibrated?

The use of the film is so common that it would take a long while to ensure the adherence to the rule. Even then, nothing prevents criminals from using it temporarily for car crimes. The apex court’s decision was given in a PIL seeking a ban on tinted glasses.

The justification seems to be that crimes are committed in cars with tinted glasses. The court appears to have bought the argument, but stopped short of a complete ban, which would have been entering into the terrain of the executive. Would anyone advocate transparency in bedroom windows because crimes happen therein?

The logic of the argument that sunscreens on car windows act as cause for crimes is strange. There is no evidence to suggest that tinted glasses encourage or facilitate crimes in cars. It could be argued that transparent car windows aid certain types of crimes against car users.

Irrational exuberance

Thieves could find it easier to look for valuables like expensive music system or laptops left behind in the car. Besides, women travelling alone or for that matter, men alone in cars on lonely stretches of roads, could be prime targets of criminals who watch out for and way-lay such victims. Many cases of lone car owners returning from work late at night being targeted have been reported.

Women say that they would feel much safer having their cars fitted with sunscreen windows. Ironically, the PIL was intended to protect women from crimes. Is this an instance of unintended consequences by the petitioner or irrational exuberance on the part of the court?

The effect of the court decision could be disastrous. Sunscreen industry creates a lot of wealth. It employs large number of people. Sunscreens prevent glare in cars and elsewhere. An interpretation of the M V Act is that no film is allowed; only tinted-glass is permissible.

This would throw the film industry out. One of the manufacturers of these films, which they call “Sun control”, is Garware Sun control, an Indian company. The other two are 3M and DuPont, both foreign companies. Garware, the Indian company, has a large market share, claimed to be 70 per cent.

Unfortunately, the court was perhaps not apprised of the benefits of sunscreen films or the rights of those who make it, those who make a living selling and providing service to users of the film and those who use it.

The advantages of using the film include, preventing splintering of the glass in accidents reducing injury, preventing harm from ultraviolet radiation, which causes skin cancer, protection of valuables inside cars from prying eyes of thieves, and blocking 75 per cent of solar energy thus, saving on air-conditioning costs.

Do car-owners have no rights? Do they have no right to protect themselves, their health and their property from murderers, radiation-illnesses, robbers and thieves? Assuming that one-third of the 3 lakh cars in Bangalore have sunscreens and each costs of Rs 1,200, the scrap cost would be Rs 12 crore. The cost of scrapping sunscreen stocks with manufacturers, distributors and dealers would be incalculable. The country’s loss could be enormous. 

This might be a good enough time to revisit the law. Who would bell the cat? Would any activist advocate take it up through a review or curative petition? Or would the government act proactively? The government could move quickly to amend tax laws retrospectively, as in the 2G case. Why would they not do so, in a case where huge national loss in wealth and employment is caused by the court’s decision to enforce a hitherto dormant rule, especially as it leads to jeopardising the safety and health of people, while violating their fundamental rights?

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