Tuesday, December 10, 2013

SC order shadow on red beacon status symbol

The Supreme Court banning the use of the ubiquitous "lal batti" on all vehicles except those used by dignitaries holding constitutional posts.

The state government has said it would begin the process of identifying eligible beacon users following the apex court's ruling, but the authorities have been drawing flak for failing to curb the misuse of beacons by those not entitled to use them.

On September 27, 2010, the state transport department had issued a notification identifying 25 categories of positions eligible for using red beacons and 19 for amber lights, but the department failed to crack the whip on the violators.

"Let's hope that the state government will now execute the Supreme Court order in true spirit because it has turned a blind eye to violators in the past," said Nishikant Mishra, a high court lawyer and secretary of Utkal Vidyarthi Abhiyan (UVA), a voluntary organization.

Mishra said the new law would only benefit those bearing constitutional posts such as governor, speaker, deputy speaker, chief minister, cabinet ministers, ministers of state, chief justice of high court and high court judges.

The UVA had several times in the past filed PILs in the high court, seeking to check the misuse of red beacons. The September 2010 notification came in response to the high court directive following UVA's petition.

"According to the Flag Code India, 2002, and Motor Vehicle's Act, the use of flashing red lights is restricted to flag-bearing cars, that is, only those dignitaries who have the privilege of flying the national flag on their cars," Mishra said.

"In Odisha, a large number of government officials from different departments, judiciary and local bodies, state government officials not connected with the police, police officers working in non-police departments like printing presses and OSRTC use red lights even though they are not authorized to do so," Mishra added. He said though the transport department serviced notices to nearly 110 'unauthorized' dignitaries to remove red beacons from their vehicles, not a single person complied with the order.

While the state government's notification restricted chairperson of the state commission for women (SCW) from using red or amber beacon, the vehicle of the chairperson is still fitted with the beacon.

Contacted, state transport secretary G. Mathivathan said: "We had written all district collectors, SPs and commissioners of police to enforce the law. We will now abide by the Supreme Court order and release a new list of the eligible red beacon users."

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