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Court glare on beacon ‘evil’

Calcutta, Sept. 5: Calcutta High Court today signalled a fresh review to modify the guidelines on beacons atop vehicles, describing the abuse of the emergency device as a “social evil”.

This is the first time since 2002, when a public interest litigation was filed, that the court has indicated it would play a proactive role in drawing up a list of people who can use beacons.

A division bench of Justices Ashim Kumar Roy and Dipak Saha Roy said: “Illegal use of beacon is a serious crime. Many anti-social activities are being committed by using beacons. It is unfortunate that even some dignitaries, who are not entitled to get the privilege, are using beacons. The court cannot be a spectator. Now we have to find out a way to eradicate the social evil from the state by modifying the list and its strict enforcement.”

The Telegraph has published several reports on how some politicians and government officials were illegally using beacons as a tool to flout traffic rules.

The matter came under the court’s scrutiny today when an anticipatory bail plea by a person accused of using a beacon came up for hearing.

“The general people should have knowledge about people eligible for using beacon lights. The list of entitled persons should be published regularly,” the bench said.

The court said the anticipatory bail plea would be heard on September 10 but added: “Before that, we want to know details about the acts and government orders on the use of beacons. We have to assess the matter afresh and frame necessary guidelines.”

The bench added: “This court has been receiving many complaints on illegal use of beacons. Even some dignitaries, who are not at all entitled to get the privilege, are using red lights.”

The division bench appointed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) for assisting it.

The court has been hearing the matter since 2002, when Chama Mookherji, an advocate, had filed a PIL alleging rampant abuse of beacons, following which the court asked police to take stringent action against violators. “The police started slapping violators with a penalty of Rs 500 after the court order, which was nothing but a mockery of the order,” Mookherji said.

The matter raced back to the court again in 2008 when Idris Ali, another advocate, filed a petition. In 2009, the court instructed the state government to file an affidavit along with a list of dignitaries whom the state considered eligible to use beacons.

The government produced a long list that included zilla parishad sabhadhipatis, chairpersons and mayors of civic bodies, district judges and university chancellors, and the court approved it despite opposition from a section of legal activists.

“Today’s order is interesting because it appears that the court is trying to play a proactive role in correcting the anomaly,” said Mookherji.


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