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VIP Movement Menace: Violative of Constitutional Rights

It is common knowledge that there is VIP movement in almost all major cities, especially in capital cities. Whenever, the President, PM, Cabinet ministers, Governors, Chief Ministers, foreign dignitaries & other VIPs travel on a particular route, the traffic is blocked till the VIP passes by. This results in a traffic menace- the school buses, the ambulances, the sick, the old, the office goers and the common man are all stuck in traffic jams & blockades caused by these VIP movements. 

Recently, the President of India travelled to Kanpur by a special train. Due to security concern all Railway Overbridges were blocked until the special train passed. One ambulance carrying a woman entrepreneur got stuck in the blockade and could not reach the hospital in time and the patient died in the ambulance stuck in the blockade. Had the patient reached the hospital, she might have been saved.

This incident caused furore but since it pertained to a VVIP, the matter was hushed up. Thousands of common man have missed their trains or plane, thousands of students have missed their examinations and thousands of patients have suffered due to this menace. Their stories full of agony, pain & apathy remain unpublished, unheard and unnoticed. This is indeed alarming. 

The matter has come up before the Courts on several occasions and the Courts have deprecated this practice and expressed concern at the inconvenience so caused to the common man. The Apex Court presided by Justice G.S. Singhvi hearing a PIL in 2012 observed that at times even judges were not allowed to move and they were made to stand outside their residence during VIP movement.

A similar sentiment of displeasure was expressed by the other judge of the Bench Justice Gyan Sudha Misra over the curbs on traffic movement if a person of importance happens to be passing by. The Bench expressed that the restrictions imposed imperilled the lives of any injured people who may be on their way to the hospital.

The Bench cited a case in which a couple lost their only child in a similar situation. The Bench also wondered about the proportion of policemen posted for VIP security and those for preventing crime and dealing with law and other situations and expressed concern over the fact that fewer policemen were posted for maintaining law and order and more were diverted for VIP security. 

The Madras High Court hearing a similar plea in 2021 observed that Citizens should not be made to suffer by waiting for hours together for VIP movement. At times, it is not even sure that such persons accorded with this treatment are entitled to the same or whether there are security concerns pertaining to the minister.

The Court struck a balance between security requirement of VIPs and constitutional rights of citizens and observed thus:
There is no doubt that the Chief Minister should have the right of way and security concerns the post demands that the CM not be stalled in traffic........Equally, the local police authority should ensure that the ordinary citizens are not put to great inconvenience by blocking the entire stretch of the road and stopped at crossings for a great length of time in connection with VIP movement.

Realising the agony he Court has said the road traffic need not be halted for dignitaries, including the state governor, the chief minister and chief justice, as it suggested that any such stoppage for facilitating the movement of their vehicles should not be more than 5 or 10 minutes. However, exceptions may only be made in the case of visits of high-level dignitaries such as the president and the prime minister, who occasionally visit and whose visits were intimated and publicised in advance, observed the Court. However, the Court made it clear that the directions will not prevent the police authorities from diverting traffic from certain roads in case of visit to the city of high dignitaries such as the president and the prime minister or in other exigencies.

It would be trite to refer to Gujrat High Court in Jigneshbhai Dhirendrabhai Goswami Versus State of Gujarat  Writ Petition (PIL) No. 9 of 2012  decided on 25/07/2012, wherein the Court on a similar issue held thus:

17. In our opinion, although Mr. Jani is quite justified in contending that there should not be any compromise with the security arrangement of the Chief Minister, yet, we cannot lose sight of the fact that in the process of maintaining the security arrangement, it is the duty of the State to see there is no inconvenience caused to the ordinary public in their daily activities.

In a State like Gujarat, where the temperature in the summer rises up to 45 degree Centigrade, it is inhuman to compel the Scooterists or pedestrians to wait under the sun without movement. An infant or aged person above 60 years of age may become seriously ill if he is asked to wait in such circumstances for even 15 minutes. The cases of patient are needless to mention.

18. The State, in our opinion, is also under obligation to take into consideration the fact that the examinees are required to reach their examination centres in time, the employees are under compulsion to attend their office punctually, the students are required to reach their schools and colleges at a given hour and the doctors are required to attend their patients in emergency. In fact, everybody in a civilized society has his own time-schedule and has a right to demand that the same should not be disturbed.

Thus, the period of detention should be minimal and should not ordinarily exceed the time of stoppage experienced by a citizen in an ordinary traffic control signal. The State, in this connection, should adopt the procedures followed in advanced foreign countries in regulating the security arrangement of the dignitaries of the States.

19. We, therefore, direct the State-Respondents to incorporate in the Rules and Instruction specific direction regarding smooth passage of the traffic so that the rights of the ordinary citizen are in no way affected and at the same time, the action of the State in maintaining security of the high dignitaries in no way violates Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

In the existing Rules and Instruction, the direction regarding detention of the ordinary vehicles is framed in a vague manner, which is capable of being abused. In other words, unbridled power has been given to police authority to detain the running vehicles and pedestrians in the name of security arrangement without providing any guidelines as to time of detention of the vehicles or making alternative ways of public and meeting their emergent situations.

20. As pointed out by the Supreme Court in the case of District Registrar and Collector, Hyderabad vs. Canara Bank reported in AIR 2005 SC 186, any law interfering with personal liberty of a person must satisfy a triple test:
  1. it must prescribe a procedure;
  2. the procedure must withstand the test of one or more of the fundamental rights conferred under Article 19 which may be applicable in a given situation; and
  3. it must also be liable to be tested with reference to Article

14. According to the said decision, the test propounded by Article 14 pervades Article 21 as well, the law and procedure authorizing interference with personal liberty and right of privacy must also be right and just and fair and not arbitrary, fanciful or oppressive. If the procedure prescribed does not satisfy the requirement of Article 14 it would be no procedure at all within the meaning of Article 21.

21. The constitutional validity of the power conferred by law came to be decided from yet another angle in the case of Air India v. Nergesh Meerza and Ors., (1981) 4 SCC 335, where it was held that a discretionary power may not necessarily be a discriminatory power but where a statute confers a power on an authority to decide matters of moment without laying down any guidelines or principles or norms, the power has to be struck down as being violative of Article 14.

22. At this stage, we may refer to the provisions contained in the Ahmedabad Police Commissioners Rules framed under Section 33(1) of the Bombay Police Act, which requires a person to take permission from the Police Commissioner to hold any meeting or procession in the public street so that ordinary right of a citizen to use the public road without any impediment is not interfered with.

However, such Rule is not applicable to a marriage party procession or funeral procession of a person who has died natural death if the number of participants in such procession is less than one hundred. Therefore, even according to the existing legislation, only a procession containing maximum one hundred persons, which takes less than two minutes to pass through a particular point, does not require permission.

For detaining public for more than that amount of time in a public place, the permission of a person holding responsible post of the Police Commissioner or his delegated authority is necessary, whereas under the Secret Rules and Instruction framed for protection of the Respondent no. 3 no guidelines have given for preventing the public from its free use of public streets.

23. For the above reasons, the Respondents are directed to constitute a high power committee of experts who will find out the ways of removing the difficulties faced by the ordinary citizen and at the same time, take full measures in protecting the securities of the high dignitaries. Let such a committee be constituted within a month from today with a direction to frame additional guidelines in the light of our observations in this judgment.

It is undisputed that closing down roads without making alternative arrangements was a violation of the fundament rights guaranteed to citizens under Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution and the practice is illegal, arbitrary and uncalled for. Article 14 guarantees equality and similar treatment and protects common man against Discrimination. Article 19 of thr Constitution of India provides Right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business to all citizens. Article 21states that No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to a procedure established by law.

Thus, article 21 secures two rights: Right to life, and Right to personal liberty.The right to life in Article 21 of Indian constitution does not mean animal existence or the mere act of breathing. It guarantees the right to live with human dignity. The act of the administration to block the roads for passage is thus violative of the Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution. 

It cannot be denied that blocking roads during VIP movements is blatant violation of constitutional rights and it is imperative for the administration to take corrective steps to put an end to this menace. Inspite of judgements of the High Courts & the Apex Court, the VIP movement menace is continuing will full force without following the binding directions of the Court. It is high time people should assert their rights against the poor treatment they get when stuck in traffic due to VIP movement. The Government should issue guidelines for the safety and security of vulnerable people during VIP movements but at the same time protect the constitutional rights of the common man. 

Written By: Inder Chand Jain
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 8279945021

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