Despite unambiguous laws, cars in Delhi sport fancy number plates and tinted windows

This city of 16 million or so is broadly divided into two categories -- those who can ignore the law and those who cannot afford to do so. It goes without saying that those who ignore the law are the well heeled and the well connected.

The law breakers do it brazenly, publicly flaunting their capacity to get away with it and daring the law to do something about it. The law comes up short on expectations and this does not surprise anyone. Everyone knows that the law enforcer on the street, the constable, is street smart. He has to be, if he wants to survive. He looks the other way.

Examples of law breaking and the law not bringing the defaulters to book are many and you do not have far to go in search of the law breaker. Step out of the house and you will find them in tens of thousands on every street. A majority of habitual offenders either sit behind a wheel or are being driven to and from work and their law breaking begins with the identification plate on their car.

The rules about using tinted car windows and about how the registration number of the car should be displayed are very clear, the spacing between letters and numbers and the height and width of the letters and numbers are all very unambiguously laid down in the law book. Yet these rules are constantly flouted. The idea behind these rules is essentially to ensure that the occupants can be easily identified and the number of the car can be easily read. If a vehicle is involved in a hit and run accident or in a crime, the chances of the culprit being apprehended brighten if the culprit and the vehicle are correctly identified. Non-tinted car windows and clearly written numbers help in the process and yet in many instances tinted car windows and fancy number plates help the culprits get away.

Should one assume that all those sporting such fancy number plates are planning a crime and prosecute them? The suggestion would appear preposterous and yet is there another explanation, as to why do they do it?

According to the rules, the number plate is meant only for displaying the registration number of the vehicle and nothing else. Yet all kinds of things are written on the number plate.

One would assume that car showroom owners and distributors would be aware of this restriction and yet the names of the distributors are displayed prominently on the number plates. Functionaries of political parties paint at least a portion of the number plate in the colours of their flag and even display their designation on the plate. This trait is not confined to lowly functionaries of political outfits alone, elected representatives also fall prey to the temptation of flaunting their status. One could argue that those that flout the law are too many and the police force, stretched to breaking point in fighting big ticket crime, cannot be asked to take on tens of thousands of minor violators.

The question that we need to ask is actually a little different -- what prevents the law makers from prosecuting car distributors for this violation? What prevents the police from canceling the registration of every car owned by an elected representative or a functionary of a political party who disfigures the number plate? Many Government of India vehicles carry a warning: Power Break! Keep Distance!!

Who is the warning for? The traffic behind the GOI vehicle or is it meant for the law enforcing authorities, I wonder.

Keywords: fancy number plates

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