SC restricts use of red beacon lights

SC restricts use of red beacon lights

The use of red beacon lights on top of vehicles has now been restricted by the Supreme Court to those holding constitutional posts.

A bench of Justices G S Singhvi and C Nagappan regretted the misuse of red beacon lights saying it was reflective of a “Raj mentality” and called it the antithesis of a republic.

“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 treat ordinary citizens with contempt. The use of red lights on vehicles of public representatives and civil servants has perhaps no parallel in world democracies,” the bench said.

Passing a slew of directions, the bench said the red beacon lights could be fitted in the vehicles of “high dignitaries” as specified by the Centre and state governments.

Further, the court added that the red beacon, with or without flasher, “can be used” only while the specified high dignitary “is on duty and not otherwise.”

The apex court favoured passing “adequate” amendments in the rules to ensure “deterrent” punishment including exemplary fine to the violators.

According to rules and notifications issued under the Motor Vehicle Act, high dignitaries include President, vice-president, prime minister, deputy prime minister, former presidents, former prime ministers, chief justice of India, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, cabinet Ministers of the Union, deputy chairman, members of the Planning Commission, leaders of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha and judges of the Supreme Court.

Those who can also use the red beacon lights on their vehicles but without flashers while on duty are the chief election commissioner, comptroller and auditor general, the three service chiefs, ministers and the UPSC chairman.

The court pointed out its abuse in committing crimes in different parts of the country with impunity, because police officials are often scared of checking such vehicles and imposing fines or penalties.

The court has directed police and law enforcement bodies to strictly enforce the prohibition of red beacon light use and multi-toned horns in vehicles that are not specified in the rules.

Dealing with a PIL, the court said men in uniforms, or those who required unhindered access to roads for performance of their duty in emergency services like ambulance, fire services, police escorts or pilots may use different lights like blue, white or multi-colour.

Welcoming the Supreme Court order, Union Minister Jairam Ramesh said only the President and the prime minister should have the privilege to use the red light beacon and favoured a similar criterion for security escorts.

The rural development minister, who never uses security or a red beacon on his car, also questioned the need for security around ministers. “Why should ministers want security? You see me having security anywhere?” Ramesh said.

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