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What top court ordered months ago, Centre scurries to do today
Crackdown on tinted glasses, curtains

Protesters at a rally outside the residence of Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit on Wednesday. (Reuters)

New Delhi, Dec. 19: Sushil Kumar Shinde today announced some steps to prevent assaults in vehicles but the Supreme Court had listed two of these measures in an order in April.

The home minister’s measures came in the backdrop of the gang-rape of a 23-year-old paramedical student in a bus that had tinted windows and heavy curtains. The bus zipped around south Delhi for 45 minutes while the assault took place, crossing three police checkpoints undetected.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh termed the incident “very upsetting” and directed Shinde to ensure the culprits are brought to book and such incidents are not repeated. “It’s an heinous crime... it is very upsetting,” he said.

Today’s announcement was made after a meeting Shinde held with Delhi police commissioner Neeraj Kumar and in the face of an unrelenting outcry in the House.

However, the Supreme Court had on April 27 this year banned the use of tinted glass on vehicle windows through the country on a PIL filed by a Calcutta-based businessman, Avishek Goenka.

Again on August 3, a bench of Justices A.K. Patnaki and Swatante Kumar had warned DGPs and the police commissioners of contempt proceedings if its original directive was not complied with.

Issuing a warning, the top court had said: “In terms of Rule 100 (Motor Vehicles Act), no material, including films of any VLT (visual light transmission), can be pasted on the safety glasses of the car and this law is required to be enforced without demur and delay.

“All the director generals of police/commissioners of police are hereby again directed to ensure complete compliance of the judgment of this court in its true spirit and substance.”

The court said pasting of any material, including films of any VLT, on the safety glasses of any vehicle should not be permitted. It directed the police authorities to not only challan the offenders but “ensure that the black or any other films or material pasted on the safety glasses” are removed immediately.

The bench had then said that “at this stage that we would not initiate any proceedings” against DGPs and police commissioners of states and Union territories. It only issued a “a clear warning” that if non-compliance with the order was brought to its notice, it would be “compelled to take appropriate action under the provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, without any further notice to the said officers”.

Goenka told The Telegraph he had filed a contempt petition on November 19 but the matter has yet to be listed by the registry.

In his PIL, Goenka had sought a ban on the use of tinted glass in vehicles — he had cited a rape in Ghaziabad, which forms part of the National Capital Region — and suggested the use of such vehicles by terrorists to carry out subversive activities.

The apex court had passed the August 3 order while dismissing a bunch of applications by manufacturers of film screens. It rejected the their argument that the tinted films were essential as they protected vehicle occupants from UV rays and vulnerability to cancer.

The bench noted that various western and European countries had banned such films and there was no basis for the claim on UV ray protection. It said occupants could use sunscreen lotion instead.

“Once this court interprets a provision of law, the law so declared would be the law of the land in terms of Article 141 of the Constitution of India. The law so declared is binding on all and must be enforced in terms thereof.

“The court is not expected to go into individual cases while dealing with interpretation of law. It is a settled canon of interpretative jurisprudence that hardship of few cannot be the basis for determining the validity of any statute.”