PIL on red light
By our Staff Reporter
GUWAHATI, June 4: The Assam Government is at liberty to examine and notify on the PIL filed in the Gauhati High Court on issues relating to the use of red light.
A division bench of the Gauhati High Court comprising of Chief Justice Ajit Singh and Justice Suman Shyam has recently granted liberty to the Assam Government to examine the issues raised in the PIL (30/2014) and issue appropriate notification in that regard as expeditiously as possible within 30 days from May 19, 2016.
The PIL was filed by lawyer Rajeeb Kalita challenging the notification (TMV.438/87/Pt-III/132) published on March 15, 2014 by the State Transport Department which provided the list of officials who were allowed to use red lights (beacons) on top of their vehicles. The petitioner is of the view that the notification extends the privilege of use of red lights to many officials who are not entitled to use as they are not ‘high dignitaries’ as clarified by the Supreme Court in its judgment issued on December 10, 2013 in the Abhay Singh -Vs- State of Uttar Pradesh and others case.
Senior advocate Bhaskar Dev Konwar, who appeared for the petitioner, states that the Supreme Court of India has already observed that the State Government cannot enlarge the scope of the term ‘high dignitaries’ beyond the Central Government Notification issued on January 11, 2002 and July 28, 2005. The term – high dignitaries – takes within its fold holders of various posts, positions and offices specified in the Constitution.
According to the petitioner, ministers of State, parliamentary secretaries, lok ayuktas, upa-pok ayuktas, chief secretaries, director generals of police, chief information commissioners and State information commissioners are not entitled to use red lights on top of their vehicles. The petitioner also prayed for a direction upon the authorities to restrict the use of ‘siren’ in the vehicles of the Police Department as well as to stop the practice of holding up traffic due to VIP movement.
It is only the State Governor, the Chief Minister, the Chief Justice, judges of the High Court, the Speaker of the State Assembly, Cabinet ministers, Leader of the Opposition, chairmen of Central Administrative Tribuls, the Deputy Speaker of the State Assembly and the chief executive members (CEMs) of the Sixth Schedule Autonomous Councils are entitled to use red light on top of their vehicles, that too, while on duty and not otherwise.
In an earlier judgment on February 9, 2000 in the Bijayanda Choudhury –Vs- State of Assam case the Gauhati High Court had issued a directive to the State Government to see that the traffic regulation relating to VIPs (wherever any risk factor is involved) be such that avoidable inconvenience to the public should be avoided. The directive further said that it should be implemented in a manner that the even flow of traffic is not affected more than necessary and there may not be any mishandling of members of the public nor they be treated disgracefully. The Chief Secretary and the DGP were also instructed to ensure that uuthorized use of red light and siren is checked and stopped without delay.
A Government of India notification issued on February 22, 2006 (42/VS-I/2006(13)) states ‘The traffic should not be held up for more than 3 minutes during movement of the VIPs referred therein’.