SC prod on beacon lights

The Supreme Court on Thursday sought response from states and Union Territories (UTs) within three weeks on the issue of restricting the use of beacon lights, insignia and VVIP security only to top constitutional functionaries like President, Prime Minster, Chief Justice of India and chief ministers.

A bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice H.L. Gokhale felt that the use of beacon lights and security being treated as a status symbol should be withdrawn from those who do not deserve it because public money is spent on such paraphernalia.

"We can understand if security or sirens are provided to the President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Speaker, Chief Justice of India and other constitutional authorities at states. But it is being provided to all and sundry like sarpanches, mukhiyas, chairpersons and others for whatever reasons. We want the government to address us on this," the bench told solicitor-general Rohinton Nariman, appearing for the Centre, and other counsels representing various states.

The apex court passed the direction while dealing with a petition filed by one Abhay Singh, a native of UP, challenging the provision of VIP security to a number of persons at public cost though they do not have any threat perception. The petitioner, through senior counsel Harish Salve, claimed that many of them were availing the facility only as a matter of status symbol.

Agreeing with the submission, the apex court had asked states, UTs and the Centre at the earlier hearing to provide data on the expenditure incurred on such facilities offered at public expense.

Citing the recent Delhi gang rape incident and media reports during Thursday's hearing, Salve said 30 per cent of the capital's police force was engaged in providing security to the so-called VIPs, exposing the general public to various crimes. "Why should not the government be specific on who can use red lights or blue lights?" the bench wondered.

"The use of red lights can be restricted only to constitutional functionaries, ambulances and in some cases army personnel."

Nariman said the Centre fully shared the concern of the court that security should be restricted only to top functionaries and those having threat perception.

"Our own experience is that nobody bothers because when we travel for 4km it makes no difference," the bench remarked, citing that even judges of the Supreme Court have beacon lights but it is not taken seriously by the public on the road.

In other words, the court pointed out that even with beacon lights such vehicles do get caught in jams.

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