Above: Vehicles of most VVIPs do not bear number plates/Photo: rajbhavan.gujarat.gov.in
The Delhi High Court has said that all vehicles, even VVIP ones, should be registered and have a number plate, thereby making all citizens equal
~By Kunal Rao
The Delhi High Court said in a recent judgment that every vehicle in the country, including those of top dignitaries like the president, vice-president, governors and lieutenant-governors, should be registered and have a number plate.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said that everyone has to comply with the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, while disposing of a petition which had sought the seizure of cars used by Rashtrapati Bhavan, the vice-president, Raj Niwas and the protocol division of the ministry of external affairs (MEA) on the grounds that they were not registered.
The Court said: “There can be no manner of doubt that every vehicle has to comport to the Motor Vehicles Act and has to be registered with a registering authority and must display the registration number.” It also directed the centre and the Delhi government to ensure that all vehicles should be registered under the Motor Vehicles Act and clearly display the number plate.
In the public interest litigation filed by Nyayabhoomi, a non-governmental organisation, it was contended that displaying the national emblem on cars instead of number plates makes them conspicuous, rendering dignitaries easy targets for terrorists and anyone with malicious intention.
The central government’s standing counsel, Rajesh Gogna, submitted a status report in the Court on behalf of the ministry of road transport and highways stating that the offices of the top dignitaries had been told to register their cars. The report said: “That the offices of President of India, Vice President, Governors and Lt Governors in the country and Secretary (Ministry of External Affairs) have been asked vide letter dated January 2 to ensure that all the vehicles used by the (a) President/ President’s Secretariat, Vice President/Vice President’s Secretariat, (c) Governor/ Lt. Governors/ or their Officers/Secretariat, (d) Ministry of External Affairs be registered, if not done, and that they display registration mark as per the rules.”
Following this, replies were received from the vice-president’s secretariat stating that all its vehicles displayed registration numbers, including those being used by the vice-president and his spouse. The report added that the vehicle of the governor of Kerala and those being used by officers and the governor’s secretariat were registered with the Regional Transport Office and displayed the registration mark as per rules of the MV Act. With respect to 14 vehicles of the MEA, it stated that the process for registration had been initiated and would be complete soon.
The Court directed that an action taken report (ATR) be given to the petitioner and if he found that the vehicles were still not registered, then he could approach the court.
The NGO said that several letters were written to the commissioner, transport, the traffic police and the president of India, but no response was received. Information was also sought under the Right to Information Act, but still no action was taken.
The petition claimed that non-registration of a car meant that it was not insured and hence, in case of an accident, no claim could be brought against it as its ownership would be unknown. It added that citizens would get a message that if a dignitary could get away with disobeying the law, so could they.
This decision of the High Court has, to some extent, brought an end to VVIP culture in the country.