Fellowship of the siren
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In wondering why judges should be entitled to beacons and sirens, SC asks the right question.
The white Ambassador, crowned by a red beacon and armed with a shrill siren, has right of way on Indian roads. It parts the sea of vehicles for the very important people riding in it, and sets them apart from the mere citizens bound by traffic rules. Only a deeply hierarchical society has use for such symbols. In a country where democracy is a battle in progress against the inequalities inherited at Independence, a stubborn culture of VIP entitlement continues to thrive. It is, therefore, heartwarming that the highest court of the land has questioned this unfair exemption.
What is more, while doing so, a bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and V. Gopala Gowda also turned the beacon of scrutiny inward. "How does the Centre permit Supreme Court judges to use sirens? We would like to know the rule concerned," they asked on Monday, while hearing arguments on a plea that seeks to restrict such rights to constitutional authorities. In April, the same bench had asked state governments to ignore earlier orders on this issue. In 1993, the Allahabad High Court ruled that all high court judges were entitled to carry red beacons on their official cars, an order prompted by traffic constables stopping HC judges in Lucknow.