HT Chandigarh Our Take: Let’s give a shout out to creative expression

Authorities are not registering an Ambassador car in Chandigarh because it has art by a well known street artist and change of paintwork is not allowed. What’s your take on it?
Advocate Ranjit Malhotra with his Ambassador car .(HT Photo)
Advocate Ranjit Malhotra with his Ambassador car .(HT Photo)
Updated on Jul 25, 2020 11:03 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By

Years ago, an anthropomorphic yellow Volkswagen Beetle named Herbie captured popular imagination in a Walt Disney film, The Love Bug. It drove itself and had a number of adventures, managing at times with a deft turn of a steering wheel, to win automobile races too.

Why we are referring to Herbie in this column is because a brightly coloured vehicle has been in the news in the city for the last few weeks. It features, very prominently, art work by a Mexican artist, Senkoe, or so its owner, Chandigarh resident and high court lawyer Ranjit Malhotra, claims.

Malhotra bought the Ambassador Grand Harit-C-1800 from a European Union diplomat in Delhi in July last year. However, much to his chagrin, the registering authority in Chandigarh refused to register the vehicle stating that the colour of the original vehicle had been changed from white to multi-colour, in violation of norms.

Following this, Malhotra moved the Punjab and Haryana high court, pleading that the reason for buying the vehicle was the artwork by Senkoe.

Famed for his freestyle art, Senkoe is much loved by Dilliwallahs for the number of vibrant murals he has created in the Capital during visits to India, especially at Lodhi Colony and Jamia Millia Islamia.

On July 15, the high court’s single-judge bench of justice Jaishree Thakur directed UT administration to register the car within two weeks.

Now, the UT says allowing registration would lead to a potential law enforcement problem as in common practice a motor vehicle is identified by its registration number and colour by the authorities. The colour takes precedence as it is the most recognisable/distinguishable feature of a vehicle for its prima facie identification by authorities, UT states in its plea.

The administration’s argument is that the single-judge bench misinterpreted Section 52 of the Motor Vehicles Act. According to Section 52, no owner of a motor vehicle can alter it beyond the particulars mentioned in the certificate of registration, which are provided by the manufacturer.

This seems to be leading to an interesting tug of war between the administrative authorities and a lawyer with an artistic eye. Agreed, a car is recognised by its colour, but if this piece of art is registered, not just traffic authorities, even locals will be more than happy to spot it on the roads.

The administration should also doff its hat to creativity, especially in a city like Chandigarh, which has been a drawing board of sorts for Le Corbusier.

Art cars are not new and have an enthusiastic fan following, especially in the US, where the likes of artist and film director Andy Warhol, known for his pop art, have designed famous BMW vehicles with art.

Rules need to be relaxed in special cases when in a changing world order, with a pandemic spreading gloom and anxiety, people are looking for release – which a piece of art can definitely provide.

Let there be a splash of colour on our roads, a play on Corbusier’s legacy, where normalcy is not the norm and art always has a place in the people’s hearts.


Why shouldn’t cars with artwork be registered?

Why should vehicles with artwork not be registered in UT? What else should the administration do to promote art in Chandigarh? Send your responses with a photograph to Chandigarh@hindustantimes by July 31.

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