9 Sep 2021 10:58 AM GMT
The Madras High Court has recently directed that portraits and photographs of communal leaders pasted on vehicles must be removed as such a practice is often indulged in to intimidate the police and get away with criminal activities. A Bench comprising Justice N Kirubakaran (retired) and Justice B Pugalendhi observed with disdain, "The purpose of having party flags or designation boards...
The Madras High Court has recently directed that portraits and photographs of communal leaders pasted on vehicles must be removed as such a practice is often indulged in to intimidate the police and get away with criminal activities.
A Bench comprising Justice N Kirubakaran (retired) and Justice B Pugalendhi observed with disdain,
"The purpose of having party flags or designation boards or portraits of party/communal leaders or advocate/press stickers is only to keep away the police from stopping the vehicle even in case of violation of road rules. It has become an order of the day in Tamil Nadu that almost 50% of the vehicles either have party flags or designation boards or portraits of party/communal leaders or advocate/press stickers. This menace has to be addressed failing which the criminal activities will continue to be committed by the above modus operandi"
The Court opined that if anybody wishes to display portraits of political leaders, they may do so inside the vehicle but not outside so as to ensure that police authorities are not precluded from discharging their duties.
"Though the portraits of the leaders are fixed on the dashboard, those portraits are placed only facing outside only with an intention to give a message that the vehicle is possessed or driven by a party man and the police cannot intercept. If anybody wants to admire or display the portraits of leaders, they can fix the portraits facing them inside the vehicle and not outside. Though it is the right of the owners to have portraits, the intention of the owners is only to deter the policemen from discharging their duties", the Court remarked.
The order was passed in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking directions to curb the misuse of advocate stickers and also to direct the concerned authorities to maintain Highways, remove authorised LED lights and to erect high mast lights in National highways.
With regards to fixing of flags including party flags, organization flag on vehicles, the Court ruled that such a practice is not authorised by law and is therefore illegal.
The Court also placed reliance on an affidavit submitted by the Director General of Police wherein it was contended that fitting of flags and designation boards in the vehicles is a direct measure to deter the police officials from vehicle checks and it also deters the policemen from discharging their duties. Police authorities often hesitate to stop and check the vehicles which are fitted with party flags and designation boards as the passengers in those vehicles frequently enter into heated arguments with the police authorities resulting in a law and order problem.
Thus, the Court proceeded to direct the concerned authorities to instruct the owners of the vehicles to 'remove the portraits/photos which have been fixed on the dashboard facing outside' within a period of 60 days, failing which the authorities were instructed to remove the photos and fine the vehicle owners.
"No one has got any right to flout the law or to commit excesses which are not sanctioned by law. The act of having flags or designation boards or portraits of party/communal leaders or advocate/press stickers is to show that they are privileged sections of the society and to flout the law", the Court further opined.
Furthermore, it was observed that Section 177 of the Moto Vehicles Act (with wilful disobedience of any direction lawfully given by any person or authority) explicitly prohibits the use of such stickers on vehicles. The Court also took into consideration the submission made by the Director General of Police that vehicles with party flags or designation boards or portraits of party/communal leaders or advocate/press stickers are often found to flout traffic rules and that they do not even respect the signals of the policeman.
Reprimanding such a practice, the Court observed,
"No vehicles can violate the traffic signals which are functioning to regulate the traffic to avoid accidents and for smooth movement of vehicles. Therefore, it is the duty of every vehicle owner/driver to follow the traffic rules and no one can violate the traffic rules taking advantage of their political or social status."
As a result, the Court directed the police authorities to conduct vehicle checks irrespective of the party flags or designation boards or portraits of party/communal leaders or advocate/press stickers.
However, the Court acknowledged that vehicles can display political flags and photos during the time of elections but not otherwise.
"This Court can understand the necessity of having flags at the time of elections. In normal circumstances, there is no necessity for the vehicle owners/users to fix/have either the party flags or designation boards or portraits of party/communal leaders. Therefore, if at all, the vehicle owners may be permitted to fix the party flags on their vehicles from the date of declaration of election till the date of declaration of the results, if they are involved in the election work of any political party. At other times, no one has got any right except the constitutional authorities to sport flags or name boards," the Court added.
In order to ensure road safety and prevent the occurrence of criminal activities, the following directions were issued.
• There shall be a direction to the Transport authorities to check whether the lights are fixed in accordance with the rules at the time of registration of the vehicle or at the time of issuance of the FC.
• The police authorities should randomly conduct vehicle checks to ensure that the lights are fixed only as per the rules and if found to be in violation of the rules, the vehicles should be seized or the lights should be removed.
• There shall be a direction to the Director General of Police, Home Secretary, Transport Secretary to instruct the owners of the vehicles to remove the tinted glasses within a period of 60 days failing which the Respondents shall seize the vehicles.
• The Respondents are directed to instruct the owners of the vehicles to remove the portraits/photos which have been fixed on the dashboard facing outside within a period of 60 days, failing which the Respondents shall remove the photos and fine the vehicle owners.
• There shall be a direction to the authorities to direct the owners of the vehicles to fix the number plate as per the size prescribed in the Motor Vehicle Rules within a period of 60 days.
• The National Highways authority is directed to install the high mast lights wherever it has not been erected and carry out the repair work in the places where it is not properly functioning at the earliest.
Case Title: V Ramesh v. The Vice Chancellor, Dr. Ambedkar Law University
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