By Prarthana Mitra
The Madras High Court on Thursday directed the National Highway Authority of India to construct a separate lane at toll plazas for Very Important Persons (VIPs) and all sitting judges across the country. The court claims that this would save important statesmen and judicial officials from having to wait in line for 10 to 15 minutes with other civilians. The petition seeking this directive also complained of the unnecessary harassment that VIPs have to often go through at toll plazas, in the absence of VIP lanes.
What did the court observe?
Already exempt from paying the toll tax at National Highways, judges reportedly find it embarrassing to wait in line and furnish identification and related documents. A bench comprising justices Huluvadi G Ramesh and MV Muralidharan passed the interim order, noting, “It is disheartening to note that the vehicles of VIPs and sitting Judges are stopped at toll plazas… It is very unfortunate that sitting judges are also compelled to wait in the toll plaza for 10 to 15 minutes.”
Toll plazas should be issued circulars to provide separate lanes so that vehicles of VIPs and sitting judges can pass through without any hindrance, demanded the high court on August 29. Violation of this new rule can land the concerned authorities in serious trouble, the court has warned, including a show cause notice and contempt charges if the NHAI fails to implement the rule effectively. The judges also forewarned all toll collectors against allowing vehicles transporting anyone other than VIPs or judges to use the special lane.
A new site of privilege?
The verdict comes during the hearing on petitions regarding toll plazas, including one that was filed by the L&T Krishnagiri-Wallajapet Tollway Limited seeking a direction to the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation Limited’s Villupuram and Salem divisions to pay the user fee. This move comes at a time when the VIP culture is on the wane and the country has begun to recognise and look down upon such segregation in terms of privilege, power and position.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius