Written by: Alisha Das (Intern)
Edited by: Anubhav Yadav (Content Head & Developer)
On July 7, a single-judge bench of the Kerala High Court, led by Hon’ble Justice Anil K Narendran, ordered all advocates arguing on behalf of the Central and State governments to remove their designations off their vehicles’ number plates within one week.
Previously, the Court had issued orders barring law enforcement officers and central government officials from displaying the court or their designation on their vehicle’s number plates. The Court held that displaying the name of the court and its designation by government lawyers violated the requirements of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.
These directions were issued in the matter where the petitioner, the Principal of Sabari PTB Smaraka Higher Secondary School, filed a writ petition seeking a directive from the Additional Registering Authority to endorse his vehicle as an Educational Institution Bus (Contract Carriage) without having to comply with Rule 125C of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules.
The Court, on the other hand, found that the vehicle in question did not fulfil the required safety criteria but was still given a fitness certificate by the authorities. The Single Bench called this into question.
The Court also looked at a news report from April 5, 2021, in which the Motor Vehicles Department approved a group of Lorries with unauthorised lights, stickers on safety glass, and impediments to the driver’s clear eyesight. Despite the precise directives in an earlier ruling of the court dated 28.10.2019, a considerable number of motor vehicles, which were likely to risk the safety of other road users, were still being permitted in public spaces.
The petitioner was represented by Advocate P. Deepak, and the respondents were represented by Special Government Pleader, Advocate P Santhosh Kumar. According to Adv. Santosh Kumar, Rule 92A of the Kerala Motor Vehicles Rules allows select officers and public defenders to display their designation on their cars, and prayed for modification of the rule. According to him, the designation on the nameplates is displayed solely for recognition, not to gain any unfair or unlawful advantage, just as other professionals, such as doctors and private legal practitioners, have the right to display the names of their professions on their vehicles. The pleader requested two months, citing the pandemic scenario as grounds, to clarify this justification and prepare an action-furnished report.
However, Hon’ble Justice Nagendran stated that he had seen multiple video clips on social media platforms of persons changing their nameplates in such a way that they could not be recognized. There had been cases of gross violations of traffic and other rules in which government prosecutors utilized their official titles and displayed them as weapons to gain an advantage. It is common knowledge that everyone is equal before the law and that there should be no discrimination, particularly among government personnel, the court observed. The Hon’ble Court was not ready to use the epidemic as an excuse to put off dealing with such infractions any longer. Instead, the Hon’ble Court underlined that the government pleaders have disobeyed the court’s earlier orders, which is already disgraceful. As a result, it has ordered that the federal and state governments provide a compliance report to the court by next week, demonstrating that all of the government pleaders have implemented the direction given by the court.