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Govt yet to act on SC order to cut down use of red beacon for VIPs

Existing rules extend the privilege to the 32 cabinet ministers as well as nearly a dozen others accorded with a cabinet rank.

india Updated: Aug 31, 2016 13:44 IST
Hindustan Times
Supreme Court,Red beacons,VIP cars
Supreme Court has advised the government to restrict the number of VIPs using red beacons.(HT file photo)

Two-and-a-half years after the Supreme Court directed the government to drastically prune the list of VIPs using red lights on their vehicle, considered more a symbol of power and status than security aid, it continues to be almost ubiquitous across the country.

The issue of VIPs flashing red beacon on their vehicle invited the ire of the top court, which in December 2013 directed the Centre to drastically trim the list of people who can use it.

The Union road transport and highways ministry has finalised its list of people entitled to the privilege but failed to get the states to restrict the number of such VIPs.

After a lot of back and forth consultations with stakeholders, last year the road ministry proposed that at the Centre, the privilege should be given to just five constitutional authorities -- the President, the vice-president, the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Lok Sabha Speaker.

Existing rules extend the privilege to the 32 cabinet ministers as well as nearly a dozen others accorded with a cabinet rank.

Similarly, the ministry proposed that states should allow just four constitutional authorities to use the beacon – governor, chief minister, speaker of the state assembly and chief justice of its high court.

The ministry wrote to the states to get their feedback. In almost all the states, the privilege to sport a red beacon is extended to about two dozen political and government dignitaries.

However, only 14 states including West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh, Orissa have responded till August with a copy of their respective “trimmed list” of dignitaries. And none of them has followed the road ministry’s proposal.

West Bengal, for instance, has allowed 11 categories of high dignitaries and officers. Of these, seven categories – governor, CM, chief justice of the high court, assembly speaker, cabinet ministers, leader of opposition and judges of high court – have been allowed the red beacon with a flasher.

In Himachal Pradesh, 14 categories of dignitaries and officials have been allowed the privilege. These include all former governors and CMs of the state and the prime minister of the Tibetan government in exile.

Tamil Nadu and Chandigarh top the list with 20 categories of VIPs entitled to use the red beacon.

“We are still chasing the states to send their views. Once we have the response from all states we can take a decision,” a road ministry official said.

Ministry officials, however, said it will be a herculean task to get states to curtail their list of dignitaries to just four.

“Even now, the 14 states that have sent their list are nowhere close to what the Supreme Court wanted. Using a red beacon is still seen as a status symbol and rampantly misused by VIPs, politicians and private citizens across the country,” another official said.

“It’s a politically sensitive issue. We have failed to reach a consensus on even the central list,” added the official.

Road transport minister Nitin Gadkari had last year written twice to home minister Rajnath Singh, finance minister Arun Jaitley and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, seeking their views on limiting such vehicles. But only Jaitley responded saying the number should be restricted to just the top constitutional authorities.

In July 2014, three months after the NDA came to power, Gadkari had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking him to take a call on who all should be entitled to use beacons on their cars.

The PM is said to have told Gadkari to get the law ministry’s opinion. When the matter was referred to the law ministry, it said the road ministry should first firm up its views. Gadkari wrote to his three senior colleagues after that.

The road ministry, which administers the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989, will have to amend provisions related to the use of beacons once the list of those entitled is trimmed.

Types of beacons in use

Red beacon with flasher: President, Vice President, Prime Minister, Union cabinet ministers, Supreme Court chief justice, leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha

Red beacon without flasher: Chief election commissioner, Union ministers of state, chief ministers, governors and high court chief justices, among others

Blue/amber beacon with flasher: District judges, police commissioners and other IPS officers, IT commissioners

Blue/white or multi-coloured beacon: Divisional commissioners, district magistrates, addition district magistrates and sub-divisional officers, depending on the state government’s discretion

Blue beacon without flasher: Police vehicles, ambulances (also allowed to use red beacons in some places), VVIP escort vehicles

Yellow beacon: Session judges, additional district judges, additional commissioners of income tax

StateNo of dignitaries allowed red beacon
West Bengal11
Himachal Pradesh14
Tamil Nadu20

First Published: Aug 31, 2016 13:36 IST