Tinted glass row: Common man fined, BMC bosses go scot-free

It’s an open secret that in this country a man who wields power has got it made in the shade. So, even as the ‘second’ and ‘third class’ people are being compelled by cops to peel off the tint on their car windows — following a Supreme Court directive — and face the full glare of the sun and curious commuters, those who are first among equals continue to drive around in full ‘filmy’ style.

BMC  chief
Sitaram Kunte: BMC chief. Pics/Datta Kumbhar

MiD DAY has photographs to prove that many top babus and netas in the city — including mayor Sunil Prabhu, BMC chief Sitaram Kunte, BEST chairman Ashok Patil, deputy chief fire officer SH Nesarikar — have turned a blind eye to the apex court order that black film of any transparency should not be used on the glasses of four-wheelers. The Central Motor Vehicle Rules (CMVR) 1989 state that the glasses of windscreen and rear windows of vehicles should have a visual light transmission (VLT) of 70 per cent. For side windows, it should be at least 50 per cent.

Sunil Prabhu
Sunil Prabhu: Mayor of Mumbai

On an average, Mumbai traffic police is registering between 1,500 and 3,000 (see box) cases of tinted glasses a day. There are over 600 car window film dealers in the city; the drive by cops has naturally sent their businesses in a downward spiral.

Ashok Patil
Ashok Patil: Chairman of BEST committee

“Instead of putting on the tinted films, motorists are coming to us to get them removed. We are running losses and if this campaign continues, we will be in a desperate situation,” said Chirag Shah, a Kandivali-based film dealer. However, many Mumbaikars are still oblivious to the traffic police’s reason for carrying out this drive. “I would like to know the motives of the cops behind removing the tinted glass. If they are so brave, they should ask the netas to comply first,” said Bhushan Agarwal ??.

SH Nesarikar
SH-Nesarikar: Deputy Chief Fire Officer 

Apart from targeting the common man’s car, traffic cops haven’t spared school buses either. If the version of bus owners is to be believed, most of traffic police personnel don’t have are clueless about the nitty-gritty of the rules regarding tinted glass. More than 800 school buses have faced the wrath of cops over the issue in recent days.

Anil Garg, chairman, school bus owners’ association, said, “They (traffic policemen) neither have the necessary checking devices nor the expertise. We have put dark glasses in air-conditioned buses for cooling. Instead of catching the ministers and other VIPs, they are only going after the common people. We staged a protest against the traffic police and will do whatever it takes to prevent this.”

Rajendra Singh Jassal, who owns a garage in Sanatcruz (West) expressed concern that not only will hoards of semi-skilled labourers who produce and fix car window films be rendered jobless, the commerce of numerous importers would be hit too.

Window pain: On an average, Mumbai traffic police is registering between 1,500 and 3,000 cases of tinted glasses a day. Pic/Sameer Markande

“Till two weeks ago, our boys would charge anywhere between Rs 200 and 250 to stick these sun films. Now, they are being paid about the same amount to peel these off. But this can go on for only about a month. Then they will have to look for alternate jobs,” said Jassal.

“Importers have spent lakhs to procure these films from countries like China, Taiwan and US by paying hefty amounts as customs duty and sales tax. Now, it is up to the government to ensure that these people do not suffer losses for such legal imports,” Jassal added.

Kasturilal Khosla, who runs Khosla Motors at Milan Subway – a suburban hub for car accessories –, stated that many of his workers fixing sun films will be left with no choice but to return to their villages once they are out of work. “A ban against dark sun films is one thing and nobody would oppose that as it is a security issue. But transparent films only act as protection from the sun and actually are energy saving devices, which ought to be promoted and not prohibited,” he claimed.

“Supreme Court in Abhishek Goenka case has unambiguously directed that application of films on car glasses are banned. Though the order came in May 2012, it was seldom adhered. Therefore, we had to embark on this drive from October 11. We have penalised over 20,000 drivers and have collected fines amounting to over Rs 10 lakh till now,” said joint commissioner (traffic) Vivek Phansalkar.

When asked if the rule was implacable even for senior government servants and bureaucrats, Phansalkar clarified that the Supreme Court order has made certain exceptions for security categorised people and special reference has been made for those covered under Z and Z plus categories.

“I being the Jt CP (traffic) have already removed the tinted films from my car and my team in the department has also adhered to the order. The DCP (motor transport) section of police has also taken off the films from 150 of its vehicles and directives have been sent to all the other departments. We have also appealed to car dealers and garage owners to refrain from pasting sun films on any vehicle and surprise checks are being conducted at such places. We once again request vehicle owners to follow the Supreme Court order, failing which traffic cops would not only impose fines but may also seize the driving licences of violators,” he told MiD DAY.

“Rule 100 of CMVR clearly states that 70 per cent VLT on the front and rear glasses and 50 per cent on the side windows should be permitted. But the Supreme Court directive does not accept this anymore. Cabs and private buses have to undergo mandatory RTO checking for clearance every year. We usually verify the VLT levels then, but that is not the case with private cars, and so the law enforcing agencies are compelled to take action on the road,” transport commissioner VN More told MiD DAY.

When informed that senior government officials and bureaucrats are not adhering to the rule, More clarified that certain exceptions have been made in the order and also a committee was formed at the state level to review the same.

Number of drivers who have been fined in the drive against tinted glasses that began on October 11

Rs 10 lakh
Fine collected till now

SC order
A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, while calling tinted glass ‘a criminal’s paradise and social evil’ had observed, “Certain VIPs/VVIPs are using black films on their vehicles for security reasons. Even this practice is not supported by law, as no notification by the competent authority has been brought to our notice, giving exemption to such vehicles from the operation of Rule 100 or any of its provisions. Be that as it may, we do not wish to enter upon the arena of the security and safety measures when the police department and home ministry consider such exemption appropriate. The cases of the persons who have been provided with Z and Z+ security category may be considered by a committee consisting of the Director General of Police/ Commissioner of Police of the concerned state and the Home Secretary of that state/centre. It will be for that committee to examine such cases for grant of exemption in accordance with law and upon due application of mind. These certificates should be provided only in relation to official cars of VIPs/VVIPs, depending upon the category of security that such person has been awarded by the competent authority. The appropriate government is free to make any regulations that it may consider appropriate in this regard.”

The judgement had prohibited the use of black films as window tint, regardless of the VLT (Visual Light Transmission Index), from May 4, 2012 onwards. It also prohibited the use of ‘any other material’ from being pasted on car windows. Car manufacturers were directed to produce vehicles with tinted glasses of no more than 70% VLT for the front and rear, and a maximum of 40% VLT for the sides. The directives were issued to all traffic authorities, and police were ordered to challan offending vehicles.

In a related judgement, the division bench of justices AK Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar had also ruled that if CPs and DGPs did not comply with their order, they could be held liable for contempt of court.

Legal view
“Supreme Court, with all respect, perhaps needs to clarify the judgement. If the law permits 70 per cent VLT on the front and rear glasses and 50 per cent on the side windows, then that should be permitted generally even if a film is used. Weather conditions in India need to be taken into consideration.”
— Advocate Armin Wandrewala, founder of Sanity On Our Roads

Penalty corner
Number of vehicles penalised by traffic cops in the city over tinted glasses:
October 11 – 1,620
October 12 – 3,223
October 13 – 3,057
October 14 – 1,632
October 15 – 3,319
October 16 – 2,235
October 17 – 2,890
October 18 – 2,379
October 19 – 2,582 

Voices > Civic bosses say
I am not sure whether my official vehicle has got tinted films on the glasses. If any rule exists, it should be followed by everybody. Since our vehicles are maintained by the transport section, they will do the needful.
Sitaram Kunte, BMC chief

Rule of law must be maintained and glasses of the car given to me by BMC will be changed very soon. I will ask the corporation to have a ordinary glasses for my car just like any common man.
Sunil Prabhu, Mayor

My car does not have tinted films on the glasses. The vehicle was given to me by the corporation. No vehicle in the fire department has dark glasses. S H Nesarikar, Deputy chief fire officer

My vehicles do have tinted glasses, but they are in keeping with the Motor Vehicles Act. So, there is no question of me changing the glasses. Ashok Patil, president, BEST committee

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