SC told ‘high dignitaries’ term not constitutional

New Delhi, Feb 14: The Supreme Court Friday asked the central and state governments to respond to a petition seeking to declare “unconstitutional” a section in the Motor Vehicle Rules that allows use of red beacon lights by “high dignitaries”.

A bench of Justice R.M.Lodha and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh issued notice as amicus curiae Harish Salve told the court that use of the term “high dignitaries” in Section 108 (iii) of the rules is an “anathema to the notion of a republic”.

Salve’s petition sought direction to the central government to ensure that the ban on the use of red beacons under Section 108 of the MV Rules, 1988, was strictly enforced and observed.

The court was told that the constitution does not create classes of citizens in which those holding high offices would be treated differently and in a privileged manner, particularly by being allowed to use insignias that make them a class above the common citizen.

“It is an accepted position that in a republic, political sovereignty lies in the citizenry, and not in those who hold office. This is in sharp contrast to monarchy in which sovereignty over the people rests with the monarch,” the plea said.

The court was told that the term “high dignitaries” which is “ill-defined”, in a constitutional framework, could not be a foundation for a class of people “who would be entitled to use insignias of sovereign power or status”.

The court was told that Section 108 generally prohibits the use of red lights on the front or lights other than the red in the rear of a vehicle, but exceptions were carved out to exclude vehicles carrying “high dignitaries” from this prohibition on the use of beacon lights.

Referring to the Dec 10, 2013, order of the apex court, the application said by the said order, use of sign and symbol of authority by people other than the high dignitaries would be illegal.

However, the court by its said order had said that expression “high dignitaries” would be construed restrictively to limit it to the holders of constitutional offices.

While restricting its ambit, the court did not address the question of this section’s constitutional validity as the same was not under challenge before it, the application said.

IANS