On April 27, 2012, the Supreme Court banned the use of black films on the car windows / windscreens and clarified the use of tinted glasses in cars. There is a lot of confusion about the exact nature of the order passed by the Supreme Court in this regard. Does it completely ban any kind of blank films being used on the car windows? Or, does it ban merely those black films that block Visual Light Transmission (VLT) beyond the permissible limit with the black films within those limits remaining permissible? The newspaper reports (see one here) are confusing in this regard. An effort is made in this article to clarify the Supreme Court order on this issue.
The aforesaid order was passed by a 3-Judge bench of the Supreme Court [Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice A.K. Patnaik, and Justice Swatanter Kumar] in the case of Avishek Goenka v. Union of India [Writ Petition (Civil) No. 265 of 2011]. You can download this order from here.
Let me point out at the outset itself that the Supreme Court has banned all kinds of black films on car windows. This means that you can’t have any type of film attached or affixed or pasted to any of your car windows irrespective of how much percentage of light is blocked or permitted. Why do the newspapers reports then mention something like this “…if your car has black film on the front and rear windscreens that blocks light by more than 30% and the tint on the side window panes is more than 50%, then you could be in contempt of court in addition to being prosecuted as per the rules provided under the Motor Vehicles Act”?
In fact, the decision has been wrongly interpreted by the media. The above-mentioned limits of 30% and 50% on the front/rear windscreens and side windows, respectively, are in fact the maximum permissible limits for the tinted glass that comes with the car when you buy it from the manufacturer. In so far as the black films (of any shades, grey or fully black) are concerned, they are completely banned irrespective of the percentage of visual light transmission (VLT) blocked or allowed by them.
Have a look at the following extract from the said Supreme Court order (para 17):
“… On the plain reading of the Rule, it is clear that car must have safety glass having VLT at the time of manufacturing 70 per cent for windscreen and 50 per cent for side windows. It should be so maintained in that condition thereafter. In other words, the Rule not impliedly, but specifically, prohibits alteration of such VLT by any means subsequent to its manufacturing. How and what will be a “safety glass” has been explained in Explanation to Rule 100. The Explanation while defining ‘laminated safety glass’ makes it clear that two or more pieces of glass held together by an intervening layers of plastic materials so that the glass is held together in the event of impact. The Rule and the explanation do not contemplate or give any leeway to the manufacturer or user of the vehicle to, in any manner, tamper with the VLT. The Rule and the IS only specify the VLT of the glass itself.”[emphasis and underlining supplied by me; “IS” in the above para stands for “Indian Standards”]
Then, in para 18 of the said order, it is clarified that:
“… Thus, on the plain reading of the Rule and the IS standards, use of black films of any density is impermissible.”
Also, look at the following observations by the Supreme Court (para 23):
“…In light of the above discussion, we have no hesitation in holding that use of black films or any other material upon safety glass, windscreen and side windows is impermissible. In terms of Rule 100(2), 70 per cent and 50 per cent VLT standard are relatable to the manufacture of the safety glasses for the windshields (front and rear) and the side windows respectively. Use of films or any other material upon the windscreen or the side windows is impermissible in law. It is the VLT of the safety glass without any additional material being pasted upon the safety glasses which must conform with manufacture specifications.”
Finally, in para 27 of the said order, the Supreme Court gave the following directions:
“For the reasons afore-stated, we prohibit the use of black films of any VLT percentage or any other material upon the safety glasses, windscreens (front and rear) and side glasses of all vehicles throughout the country. … The directions contained in this judgment shall become operative and enforceable with effect from 4th May, 2012.”
Thus, it is clear that what is banned by the Supreme Court is all types of films on the windscreens / windows / glasses of the vehicles, irrespective of the percentage of the visual light permitted or blocked. Another important fact is that it is also not permissible to use “any other material” (such as curtains, for example) on the car windows, etc. Thus, it would not be possible to cover the car windows by any other material also, and the ban is not just for the black films.
However, the Supreme Court has permitted use of black films in the official cars of the VIPs and VVIPs (ostensibly for security purposes) to be authorised by the competent authorities as mentioned the said order. The expression “VIPs” has not been defined in the said order, leaving it to be flexible and to be decided by the concerned authorities in individual cases. Therefore, the ban on the black films on car windows will apply to commoners like you and me and not to the VIPs. Accordingly, if you’re a commoner and don’t have any chance to get classified as a VIP, remove whatever type of black film (of any shade) is pasted on your car windows.
Update (12 July 2012): Times of India reports that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a review petition against its earlier ban order on the tint films in vehicles. This review petition is likely to be heard on 19 July 2012. Further details will be posted here in due course.
Update (03 August 2012): The Supreme Court has directed the Director Generals of Police and Commissioners of Police of all states and union territories to strictly comply with the aforesaid SC judgment on the use of tinted glasses in vehicles, or else face contempt of court action. The court directed the police forces in the country to charge sheet / challan all the offending vehicles which continue to use tinted glasses in violation of the law. In addition to that, it also directed the police to take immediate measures to remove tinted materials pasted on safety glasses in the vehicles. You can download this order of the Supreme Court from here.