Kerala High Court Takes Suo Motu Cognizance on Uunauthorised use of State emblems, Boards on vehicles

The Kerala High Court has initiated suo motu proceedings to address the widespread misuse of unauthorized name boards, emblems, and flashlights on vehicles, flouting various legal provisions and causing public safety concerns. The division bench comprising Justice Anil K. Narendran and Justice Harisankar V. Menon issued this order on July 9, 2024, while considering Sabarimala Special Commissioner Reports (SSCR) Nos. 29, 30 and 36 of 2023.

Background:

The court had been monitoring issues related to crowd management, facilities for pilgrims, and traffic regulation during the Sabarimala pilgrimage season. Despite previous orders prohibiting unauthorized displays on vehicles, the practice continued unabated, prompting the court to take suo motu action.

Key Legal Issues:

1. Violation of the State Emblem of India (Prohibition of Improper Use) Act, 2005 and related Rules

2. Contravention of Rule 92A of the Kerala Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989

3. Unauthorized use of government department names and designations on private vehicles

4. Illegal installation of lights and signaling devices on vehicles contrary to AIS-008 standards

5. Violation of Central Motor Vehicles Rules regarding vehicle lighting

Court’s Observations and Decisions:

1. The court noted that despite previous orders, vehicles continue to display unauthorized name boards, emblems, and flashlights, even in violation of the State Emblem of India Act and Rules[1].

2. Justice Narendran highlighted that “openly flouting prohibitions contained in the statutory provisions… the ‘Official Emblem of the State Government’, after incorporating the ‘State Emblem of India’, is displayed on motor vehicles carrying District Collectors, Law Secretary, etc.”

3. The court directed the State Police Chief to inspect a specific vehicle (KL-23/P-8383) owned by the Managing Director of Kerala Minerals and Metals Ltd., which was found displaying the State Emblem and flashlights illegally.

4. Emphasizing public safety, the court referred to the Apex Court’s decision in Avishek Goenka v. Union of India [(2012) 5 SCC 321], stating that “the legislative intent attaching due significance to ‘public safety’ is evident from the object and reasons of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988”.

5. The bench ordered the initiation of a suo motu writ petition to address these issues comprehensively, with the Union of India, State of Kerala, Transport Commissioner, and State Police Chief as respondents.

The court has scheduled the newly initiated writ petition for hearing on July 11, 2024. This suo motu action aims to curb the misuse of official emblems and unauthorized modifications to vehicles, addressing both legal compliance and public safety concerns.

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