PATNA The Bihar government is heading for a showdown with the Centre over the latter’s decision to ban the use of beacon lights atop VIP vehicles, which is slated to take effect on May 1.
Bihar transport commissioner RK Mishra said the ban on beacon lights would not be enforced in Bihar till such time as the central government ‘resolved’ certain objections raised by the state, in the matter at hand.
However, it remained open to question whether the ‘defiance’ by the Bihar government of the Centre’s decision on beacon lights, was legally tenable, under the applicable laws.
“When a draft proposal to amend section 108 of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989 (through which it was proposed to abolish the power vested in the state government to determine the dignitaries entitled for beacon lights), was sent to us, we had lodged a protest over the move”, Mishra said.
“Since then, we have not received any letter from the Centre apprising us of its response to our objections or to enforce ban on the use of beacon lights. As such, we are waiting for the resolution of our objections”, the transport commissioner told HT.
On April 19, the Union cabinet had decided to discontinue the use of beacons atop cars of all ministers, politicians and bureaucrats, seeking to end a privilege that had for long been seen as the ultimate status symbol for the high and mighty.
Even the country’s top dignitaries, such as the President, Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India, have not been exempted from the ban. However, ambulances and vehicles of the fire service, police and army have been allowed to use blue flashing beacons, to cut through traffic.
Patna high court senior advocate YV Giri said the state government was in no position to defy the central government’s fiat, as the rule that delegated to the state the power to decide the norms of usage of beacon lights, had been scrapped.
“However, the state government has the right to frame its own law to allow the use beacon lights atop vehicles. But until the new legislation is in place, use of beacon lights will be illegal (after May 1),” Giri said, adding, the state had acted within its ambit to raise the protest.
Justifying the state’s contention, a senior officer of the state transport department said the central motor vehicles rules were framed with flexibility to cater to needs of state administrations to face emergency scenarios, including law and order issues, which were a state subject.
“Mobility of civil administration and police officials, besides rescue teams to troubled areas, will be adversely affected if vehicles carrying them don’t have beacon lights to identify them as representative of state’s authority”, he added.
Some ministers and legislators of the ruling Grand Alliance (GA), who had earlier welcomed the ban, have, of late, shown their reluctance to part with beacon lights on their vehicles. “It’s a policy matter. Let the transport department come out with clear-cut guideline on beacon lights,” said a minister.
Before the Centre formally decided to severely restrict the use of beacon lights across the country, the Amarinder Singh government in Punjab and the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh, had already decided to do away with the ‘lal batti’ culture.
We have not received any letter from Centre apprising us of its response to our objections or to enforce ban on use of beacon lights. We are waiting for resolution of our objections
R K Mishra, transport commissioner
‘LAL BATTI’ CULTURE Officials say central motor vehicles rules were framed with flexibility to cater to needs of state admns to face emergency scenarios, including law and order issues, which are a state subject