The apex court order prohibiting the use of any film on car windowpanes and windscreens comes into effect on May 4 but the city police pleaded ignorance, saying they were yet to receive a copy of the April 27 ruling.
“We prohibit the use of black films of any VLT (visual light transmission) percentage or any other material upon the safety glasses, windscreens (front and rear) and side glasses of all vehicles throughout the country. The home secretary, director-general/commissioner of police of the respective states/centre shall ensure compliance with this direction. The directions contained in this judgment shall become operative and enforceable with effect from 4th May, 2012,” the order delivered by Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia and Justice A.K. Patnaik reads.
The Telegraph had mistakenly reported on April 28 that the apex court had upheld the existing rules. Section 100, paragraph II, of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989, states that visual light transmission (amount of visual light passing through an object) for the windscreen and rear windows should not be less than 70 per cent. For the side windows, it should not be less than 50 per cent.
The Supreme Court order says manufacturers may produce vehicles with tinted glasses that have “visual light transmission of… windscreen (front and rear) as 70 per cent… and side glasses as 40 per cent, respectively”.
But no films can be pasted on the glasses later to produce a tint, a common practice aimed at blocking out the sun.
Petitioner Abhishek Goenka, whose lawyer described him as a “public-spirited” person, submitted that the tint was being used to commit crime inside vehicles and make an easy escape. He also described the filmed glasses as a traffic hazard that leads to accidents. The court accepted his contention.
“The word ‘tinted’ means shade or hue as per the dictionary. The rear and front and side glasses of vehicles are provided with such shade or tint, and therefore, they are widely referred to as ‘tinted glasses’, which is different from ‘black films’. The glasses of the vehicles having a coating of black films cannot be termed ‘tinted glasses’ because they are not manufactured as such,” the order says.
It also asks “the competent officer” to remove such films from vehicles from May 4.
“The competent officer of the traffic police or any other authorised person shall challan such vehicles… with effect from the specified date … and also remove the black films from the offending vehicles,” the apex court’s order says.
The court clarified that the law does not allow even VIPs to use films on their vehicles but made an exception for people with a security risk.
“The cases of the persons who have been provided with Z and Z+ security category may be considered by a committee consisting of the director-general of police/commissioner of police… and the home secretary of that state/Centre. It will be for that committee to examine such cases for grant of exemption in accordance with law and upon due application of mind.”
The order goes on to add that the exemption should be granted only to official cars of people with threat perception. “These certificates should be provided only in relation to official cars of VIPs/VVIPs, depending upon the category of security that such person has been awarded….”
On Wednesday, barely 48 hours before theet are supposed to implement the order, the Calcutta police brass appeared clueless.
Senior officers washed their hands of saying they had not received a copy of the order.
One officer said: “Even if what you are saying is correct, it would require tremendous effort on our part to get enforce the Supreme Court directive.”
Sources at Writers’ Buildings said that in case of Supreme Court orders that have a national ramification, the directive is first sent to the Union home ministry. The MHA then sends it to all states for “necessary action”.
However, several officers in Calcutta conceded that the dark films were a problem. In the Park Street rape case, the woman had been assaulted inside a moving car. “It is very important for the police to be able to see through the glasses,” said an officer of the Calcutta Police’s south division, which had recorded the Park Street incident.
Although the police may not concede, it would definitely be easier to implement the complete ban on films than look at the glasses of a car and determine if it allowed 70 per cent light or 65 per cent.
Even if a vehicle was caught with a very dark film and the Lux meter confirmed it was illegal, the offender got away with a fine of Rs 100.