Only high dignitaries can use red beacon lights on cars, rules Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of India has ruled that red beacon lights on vehicles can only be used by people listed as “high dignitaries”, that too only when they are on duty.

Stating that the red beacons and multi-toned horns are reflective of “Raj mentality” and “an antithesis of the concept of a Republic”, a bench of Justice G S Singhvi and Justice C Nagappan said their use had to be confined to constitutional authorities and others who require these for effective discharge of their official duties.

“The use of red lights on the vehicles carrying the holders of constitutional posts will in no manner compromise with the dignity of other citizens and individuals or embolden them to think that they are superior to other people, more so, because this distinction would be available to them only while on duty and would be co-terminus with their tenure,” it said.

Urging Parliament to make laws for imposition of “adequate” and “deterrent” penalty for any misuse, the bench ordered the state governments to revise their lists of “high dignitaries”. The state governments have been given three months to submit their revised lists, and one month to remove the multi-toned horns on vehicles.

“The men in uniform; operational agencies which require unhindered access to the roads for performance of their duty; those engaged in emergency duties such as ambulance services, fire services, emergency maintenance etc, and police vehicles used as escorts or pilots or for law and order duties shall not be entitled to have red lights but lights of other colours, eg blue, white, multi-coloured etc,” it held.

“The red lights symbolise power and a stark differentiation between those who are allowed to use it and the ones who are not. A large number of those using vehicles with red lights have no respect for the laws of the country and they treat the ordinary citizens with contempt. The use of red lights on the vehicles of public representatives and civil servants has perhaps no parallel in the world democracies,” it noted.