Red beacon can only be used by high dignitaries holding constitutional posts while on duty, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday to put an end to its misuse by politicians and bureaucrats flaunting it as a status symbol, saying it is reflective of the “Raj mentality”.
The apex court also banned private individuals from using siren in their vehicles and directed the authorities to take punitive action against those doing so.
A bench of justices GS Singhvi and C Nagappan said men in uniform, those engaged in emergency duties such as ambulance and fire services, emergency maintenance and police vehicles used as escorts or pilots or for law and order duties will be entitled to use blue, or multicoloured lights instead of red beacon.
The bench asked the Centre to issue a fresh list of people eligible for using red beacon on their vehicles and asked the government to amend the rule within three months. The court passed the order on a PIL filed by Uttar Pradesh resident Abhay Singh on misuse of red beacons.
“A large number of persons are using red lights on their vehicles for committing crimes in different parts of the country and they do so with impunity because the police officials are mostly scared of checking vehicles with red lights, what to say of imposing fine or penalty,” it said.
“The contemptuous disregard to the prohibition by people in power, holders of public offices, civil servants and even ordinary citizens is again reflective of Raj mentality and is antithesis of the concept of a Republic,” the bench said.
According to rules, siren is allowed only in vehicles used as ambulances or for fire fighting or salvage purposes or vehicles used by police officers or operators of construction equipment vehicles or officers of the motor vehicles department in the course of their duty.
The apex court restrained the Centre and state governments from enlarging the scope of the term ‘high dignitaries’ beyond what is prescribed in notifications issued by Centre in 2002 and 2005.
This includes president, prime minister, chief justice of India, cabinet ministers, governors, chief minister besides the chiefs of the three defence services.
J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted immediately after the SC order. “It’s amazing how some people are married to this symbol of power. If the PM doesn’t need a red beacon why should anyone else? I look forward to instructing my people to remove red beacons from my official vehicles...”
Also, the court banned pressure horns, multiple sound emitting horns and musical horns in vehicles. “No motor vehicles except those specified in rule 119(3) of the 1989 rules or similar provisions contained in the rules framed by the state governments or the administration of Union territories shall be fitted with multi-toned horns giving a succession of different notes or with any other sound producing device giving an unduly harsh, shrill, loud or alarming noise,” the bench said.
The Maharashtra government in August pruned the list of people who can use red beacons on their vehicles, adds Dhaval Kulkarni from Mumbai.
Accordingly, only the governor, chief minister, deputy chief minister and ministers, chief justice of the Bombay high court, chairman and speaker of the legislature and leaders of the opposition are entitled to use red lights with flashers.
Sitting high court judges, the deputy chairman and speaker of the legislature, chief secretary and the additional chief secretary, principal secretaries and secretaries, advocate general, state election commisioner, lokayukta and upa-lokayukta, mayors and commissioners of A class municipal corporations (within their jurisdictions), zilla parishad chairmans, DGP and equivalent officers, chief information commissioner and MPSC chairman are allowed to use red lights without flashers.
Divisional commissioners, district collectors, mayors and commissioners of B class municipal corporations, sub-divisional and executive magistrates (within their jurisdictions), enforcement vehicles of the transport and excise departments, vehicles used to maintain law and order and fire department vehicles can use amber lights without flashers.
Ambulances can use red lights of the blinker type with a purple glass. Multi-coloured red, blue and white lights have been allowed for vehicles designated for emergency duties.
(With agency inputs)