A crucial proposal to condense the list of VIPs entitled to red beacons on their cars has been moving back and forth in the government that appears hesitating to take a final call.
The prime minister’s office (PMO) has for the second time sent back to the road ministry its proposal to limit the privilege to just nine constitutional authorities — five at the Centre and four in states.
Sources said the PMO has directed the ministry to take the states on board before taking a call on red beacons, a privilege often scoffed at as status symbol.
“Because of political sensitivities nobody wants to take a final call on who all should be allowed to use red beacons. The PMO has asked us to consult the states again. A decision will be taken only after the states give their opinion,” a road ministry official said.
Successive governments at the Centre — the current one led by the BJP and its Congress-headed predecessor — had dithered in deciding a pruned list of VIPs permitted to use red beacons despite a Supreme Court directive two years ago to drastically cut down the privilege.
The top court in December 2013 directed the government to restrict the number of VIPs using red beacons to just high dignitaries and those holding constitutional posts.
Earlier, the PMO had asked the ministry to get the law ministry’s opinion after road transport minister Nitin Gadkari wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July 2014 to decide on the number of dignitaries who could travel with a red beacon atop their vehicle.
For its part, the law ministry simply said the road ministry should take a call.
Subsequently, Gadkari wrote to three cabinet colleagues, finance minister Arun Jaitley, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and home minister Rajnath Singh, for their opinion. The file was sent to the PMO again after the senior ministers gave their views.
Existing rules allow red beacons on cars of 32 cabinet ministers as well as nearly a dozen others who have been accorded the rank and status of a cabinet minister.
The road ministry has proposed to cut the list to five constitutional authorities, including the President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and speaker of the Lok Sabha.
At the state level, the government has proposed that only four constitutional authorities would be entitled to use red beacons — the governor, chief minister, speaker of the legislative assemblies and chief justice of high court.
At present, states decide their own list and the number varies from state to state. When the Aam Aadmi Party formed its first government in Delhi, which lasted 49 days straddling 2013-2014, its popular move was the outlawing of red beacons on official cars.