Vehicles of President, vice prez, governors may soon have to put up number plates
Currently, these vehicles display only the state emblem of India and not the registration mark.
The government wants the vehicles of India’s top constitutional authorities, the President, the Vice President, and governors and lieutenant governors to display their registration numbers, in its second move in two years to remove special treatment granted to vehicles of VIPs.
Currently, these vehicles, along with those used by the protocol division of the ministry of external affairs to transport foreign dignitaries, display only the state emblem of India and not the registration mark. This is in violation of Section 41(6) of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, as pointed out by a petition filed in the Delhi high court by an activist group that seems to have encouraged the government to make the change.
Last year, the government said vehicles of VIPs, including those in use by the Prime Minister, would no longer sport red beacons.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vehicle already displays its registration number.
Section 41(6) of the MV Act states that “the registering authority shall assign to the vehicle, for display thereon, a distinguishing mark (in this Act referred to as the registration mark) consisting of one of the groups of such of those letters and followed by such letters and figures as are allotted to the state by the central government from time to time by notification in the official gazette, and displayed and shown on the motor vehicle in such form and in such manner as may be prescribed by the central government.”
In a January 2 memo to Sanjay Kothari, secretary to President Ram Nath Kovind, the Union road transport and highways ministry says: “In light of the provisions contained in the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, it is requested that it may be ensured that all the vehicles of the Rashtrapati Bhawan also display the registration mark as per the rules.”
Similar memos have also gone out to IV Subba Rao, secretary to vice president M Venkaiah Naidu, principal secretaries/secretaries to governors and lieutenant governors of all states and Union territories and foreign secretary S Jaishankar.
The government’s move follows a writ petition filed by activist group Nyayabhoomi in the Delhi high court on the vehicles of these top constitutional authorities not displaying registration numbers in violation of the MV Act. The citizens’ group had also demanded that action be taken by the transport authorities and the police against these vehicles for violating the provisions of the MV Act.
A bench of acting chief justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar had last year sought a reply from the Centre and the Delhi government on the legal position on the matter.
Senior government officials familiar with the matter said that the initial thinking in the road ministry was to exempt these vehicles from the requirements of the law, but that this idea was shot down after a few meetings.
Interestingly, according to these officials, while the vehicles of the President and the Vice President are registered, not all such vehicles are. The road ministry has asked principal secretaries/secretaries of governors and LGs and also the MEA to ensure that all vehicles used by the constitutional authorities and dignitaries are registered.
Currently, the only special treatment that some 25 categories of VIPs, including the President, Prime Minister, governors, the Chief Justice of India, Cabinet ministers, chief ministers, judges, MPs, legislators and secretary-rank officers, get on the road is exemption from toll on national and state highways.
Ashok Malik, press secretary to President Kovind, said, “The President’s vehicle will comply with all rules.”
Globally, while vehicles of many heads of states use number plates, some use ceremonial number plates or no number plates at all. The vehicle of former US President Barack Obama, for instance, carried a nondescript number plate.