The central government on Wednesday announced no dignitary will be allowed to flaunt red beacons atop their vehicles from May 1, and necessary changes in the laws for the purpose are being brought about. The Congress termed the decision "ridiculous" and as a mere "symbolic politics".
The decision was taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who informed the cabinet about it.
"From May 1, no red beacon will be allowed atop any official vehicle. There will be no exceptions," Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told reporters here after the cabinet meeting.
"It is more precisely the Prime Minister's decision. He only informed the cabinet about it," Jaitley told reporters after the cabinet meet.
Vehicles involved in emergency and relief and rescue services, ambulances, and fire services, will, however, be allowed to put blue beacons, the minister said.
Jaitley said the government will bring about the necessary amendment to the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989, in this regard.
"Rule 108 deals with use of red, white and blue lights on vehicles. Rule 108-1 (III) says the Centre and states can specify dignitaries who can use beacons on their (official) vehicles. It is a central rule and is being abolished from the rule book," Jaitley said.
He said it means no dignitary at the Centre or in states could henceforth use beacons on their vehicles.
Asked if there would be exceptions like the President or the Prime Minister for the use of red beacon on their cars, Jaitley said there can't be any exceptions "when the rule itself is not there in the rule book".
The minister said Rule 108 (2) that empowers the Centre and state governments to use blue beacons with flasher is also being changed.
"Only defined emergency services will be allowed to use blue beacons with flasher," Jaitley said.
The decision intends to strengthen democratic values in the country, the Finance Minister said, and added that the consequential changes required to be made in other rules will also be made.
The red beacon had over the decades become an instrument of political appeasement in the country with state governments "granting" such beacons to functionaries of the ruling party even when they held no constitutional posts.
Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari had the red beacon of his vehicle removed soon after the cabinet meeting.
"The government is of the considered opinion that beacons on vehicles are perceived symbols of VIP culture and have no place in a democratic country," Gadkari said. "They have no relevance whatsoever."
The Congress, however, termed the decision as "symbolic politics" and "ridiculous".
"This is not something new. The Supreme Court had on December 10, 2013, ordered which vehicles would be allowed to have beacons atop them," said Congress spokesman and former Union Minister Manish Tiwari.
"Now, after three years of this decision, if the BJP is trying to do politics over it and try to gain the high moral ground, then it is ridiculous," he added.
Tiwari said that some parts of the apex court decision had already been effected.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)