Delhi High Court on dark tints on car windows
In November 2006, the High Court of Delhi, on its own motion, issued notices to the Union of India and others in view of the deteriorating traffic scenario in Delhi. The judgment in this case Civil Writ Petition No.16565 of 2006 was delivered by Justice Swtanter Kumar, for the bench comprising of Justice Kumar and Justice H.R. Malhotra.
Among others, this judgment dealt with black tints/films on car window panes. The Court observed that “…using of black films which completely stop or substantially obstruct visibility inside the cars, are a few amongst many of the commonly committed traffic offences” (para 7). The intentions of the Court may have been most noble and salutory but sadly, it appears to be on of those judgments where the Court embarks upon law making akin to a legislative body.
Rule 100 (2) of the Central Motor Rules lays down the standards for car window visibility and reads as under:
“100. (2). The glass of the wind screen and the rear window of every motor vehicle shall be such and shall be maintained in such a condition that the visual transmission of light is not less than 70%. The glasses used for side windows are such and shall be maintained in such condition that the visual transmission of light is not less than 50% and shall conform to Indian Standards IS 2553-Part 2 – 1992.“
While observing this Rule, the Court arrived at a strange conclusion that safety glass which has been tinted by application of ‘films’ is not contemplated by the Motor Vehicles Act or the Rules thereunder. The Court’s observations read as under:
“8. Rule 100 of the Rules requires that every vehicle has to have a safety glass that is conforming to the specifications of the Bureau of Indian Standards or any other International Standards and the glass which is on the front windscreen and the rear window of a vehicle, is expected to have visual transmission of light not less than 70%, while the glass of side windows is to have not less than 50% transparency conforming to the Indian Standards. The front screen is expected to be of laminated safety glass. There is no provision under the Act or the Rules which contemplates the use of the films on glass of the vehicle. The glasses which are normally known as ‘tinted glasses’ cannot be called ‘tinted glasses’ by virtue of use of films but the manufacturer has to produce such glasses. The manufacturers are producing cars with ‘tinted glasses’, which are required to pass the test/inspection by the competent authorities as well as are required to get clearance from the technical committees constituted in accordance with law. Thus, use of black films is prohibited by law and what is impermissible to be achieved directly, cannot be achieved indirectly. The authorities and the traffic police are required to strictly enforce this condition.
9. Besides that it offends the law, use of black films has a very serious and dangerous consequence even in the field of crime. It is a common knowledge that the cars or vehicles involved in commission of heinous crimes like kidnapping, abducting, rape and other serious offences, normally carry jet black films, thus, totally preventing the offenders from being seen/identified by any person on the road.”
The observations of the Court appear to suggest that safety glasses of a car ought to be tinted at the stage of manufacture or not tinted at all. While observing as aforesaid, the Court seems to have lost sight of the Rule which specifies that the glass shall be such and shall be maintained such, which clearly suggestsy that installation of a black film is an act of maintaining the the safety glass and if such installation does not conform to the 70%/50% light transmission, the maintenance of safety glass falls foul of the Rules.
The Court, however, went on to direct that no vehicle shall have black film on its window/screen:
“14.No vehicle to whomsoever it may belong, would have the black films on the glass/screen of the car, unless it has specific permission of the concerned authority, bearing the car number as well.”
The Delhi Traffic Police followed the directions with unusual alacrity and policemen armed with soap water and blades dished out challans like Christmas candy.
While passing the directions, the Hon’ble Court reminded the common man that it was just a common, ordinary man who had no use for a black film as against the “very limited class of society” which may need the black film for security purposes, observing as follows:
“11. …the authorities are required to allow use of black films for security reasons, particularly in relation to the persons to whom high security is provided for their protection. This obviously being restricted to a very limited class of society, cannot, therefore, be permitted to defeat the law as well as endanger the life of a common man, particularly the women and children. Due provisions need to be made/amended and we hereby constitute a Special Committee of which Home Secretary, Delhi, Additional Commissioner of Police (Security) and Additional Commissioner Police (Traffic), shall be the members … shall examine the perception of threat of security to any person, who applies to the Committee for grant of permission to use black films on the car.“
So now, black films were also a status symbol of how ‘connected’ you are in the Capital.
The complete judgment can be downloaded here Black Film Ban Judgment.
The judgment was subjected to Review in CM No. 9754 of 2007 and CM No. 13271 of 2007 instituted by car films’ dealer and manufacturer respectively. The judgment delivered by a Bench comprising of Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice H.R. Malhotra observed that the judgment under Review suffered from an error apparent on the face of the record, holding as follows:
The requirement, precisely speaking, is that the glass of the windscreen must not have a visual transmission of light less than
70% on the front and the rear windscreen and 50% on the side windows. The rule does not forbid manufacture or use of glass with a higher visual transmission than the minimum prescribed, nor does the rule forbid use of films on the windscreens and side
windows, so long as the same do not reduce the visual transmission below the minimum prescribed by the rule. The direction issued by this Court forbidding the use of black films of ‘any transparency’, therefore, appears to us to be in conflict with the statutory provision made by Rule 100(2) of The Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989 (supra). The attention of the Court does not appear to have been drawn to the provisions of the said rule for otherwise there was no occasion for the Court to issue a direction contrary to the same in a public interest petition.
This, in our opinion, constitutes an error apparent on the face of the record. It is true that use of black films may be creating some avoidable problems in terms of increase in the crime rate but the remedy for any such difficulty would lie in a suitable amendment of the Rule by the rule making authority. Suffice it to say that in a matter covered by a statutory provision, a Court dealing with public interest petition may not be justified in interfering with the statutory provision so long as the validity of the provision itself is not under challenge.
The Review judgment may be downloaded here Black Film Ban Review.
That is the law as it stands today; no restriction on use of dark films as long as they conform to visibility standards laid down in Rule 100 (2).