The Tainted Tint
Maxwell Pereira

maxpk@vsnl.com

Summer is firmly in… and people are busy thinking up ways and means to ward off the heat. For those with air-conditioning in their cars, the tendency is to resort to darkening their vehicle glasses with a ‘tint’ – in the belief that this helps keep the heat out. There are other reasons too – imagined or otherwise, for people to want to be ‘tinted’. The need for privacy, to lend a form of style or aesthetics, the perceived need for security – single females driving alone at night often come up with this one. And for rapists and others criminally minded such vehicles afford an easy getaway, and help keep their mugs and nefarious deeds and designs from public view.

To fight this menace, Delhi Police has last month end informed Delhi High Court that they had not only intensified their drive against tinted offenders, but were also pushing for harsher punishments. Considering that the use of such vehicles by criminals is on the increase, the police have suggested that violators be punished with imprisonment of up to one month. And that fines be increased from Rs. 100 to Rs. 1000 for first offenders and Rs. 2000 for subsequent violations.

In his book “The Causes, Ecology & Prevention of Traffic Accidents” BHT Roberts MD has spelt out some salient features on the use of tinted glasses from the road traffic safety point of view. “A filmed windshield or rear window can reduce visibility severely, especially at night” he states. Slight tinting of the upper front windshield and rear window - especially along the glass borders, may help reduce both glare and vehicular temperature. But excessive tinting is undesirable because it can interfere with visual acuity and create excessive dimness on cloudy days. This goes for dusty days too. That while the equivalent loss of headlight power is 30%, the loss of effectiveness in seeing red brake or stoplights is 60% - as red light is transmitted through a tinted windshield with greater difficulty as compared to through an un-tinted windshield. That one can readily inspect a windshield for these features by standing in front of it and then visualizing objects in or behind the car. No distortions or other irregularities should be seen.

Provisions against the use of tinted glasses were incorporated under Rule 100 of the Central Motor Vehicle Rules – 1989; which read “…the glass of the front windscreen, and side and rear windows of every motor vehicle shall be such and maintained in such condition as to be clearly transparent and allow the driver a clear vision to the front and to the sides and through the prescribed mirror to the rear of the vehicle”. Enforcement of this rule was then not immediate.

However, following a series of criminal cases during the early 1990s… in which the use of vehicles with tinted glasses was observed, the Government decided to crack down on such ‘tint’ed activity. It was then observed that there were no clear cut directions in the Rule prescribing or defining the minimum level of transparency to be ensured, nor was there any equipment available with the enforcing authorities to measure the same. Consequently, the then Traffic managers of Delhi adopted an ingenious campaign against the use of tinted glasses by merely publicizing the provisions of law and putting the fear of God in the minds of those who did not conform, with veiled threats of the penal consequences, merely through advisory memos. An almost 99% success rate was achieved, despite a raging debate in the media on the pros and cons of enforcement against use of tinted glasses, ‘midst wide ranging protests and supports, with some labelling the entire exercise nothing short of quixotic.

Simultaneously though, the Delhi Traffic Police took up the matter with the Union Ministry to remedy the ambiguity, and consequently came the 1993 amendment to the Rule which laid down that …the glass of the windscreen or the rear window to be such that the visual transmission of light is not less than 70% while glasses used for side windows to be of not more than 50% opacity. Penal enforcement activity against tinted glasses then commenced, though not without some measure of opposition from some diehards!

In 1997 the High Court then intervened following a public interest litigation filed by advocate RN Bagai, wanting to know how the Delhi Traffic Police checked the 50% and 70% transmission of light through the glasses. Finding the checking resorted through the naked eye arbitrary, the Court directed that a suitable instrument be developed to check such transparency levels so that the legal prosecution is effectively enforced. The AGTME – “automatic glass transmission measurement equipment” was then developed by IIT Delhi in conformity with the testing procedures enumerated in the Indian Standards IS: 2553(Part-II) of 1992 and authenticated as acceptable equipment by the Court after due testing and approval by the National Physical Laboratory, New Delhi. Today, other sophisticated ‘tint’ meters are available in the market for easier detection of opacity or transparency.

Use of dark glasses or solar films and other material which restricts the transparency of windscreens and side/rear windows in violation of provision 100(2) of the CMV Rules-1989 is an offence punishable under section 177 Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 entailing a fine currently of Rs.100 for the first offence and Rs.300 for such subsequent offences. It has been suggested in the recent Delhi Police affidavit that this punishment be enhanced.

It would be prudent and advisable in the meantime to adhere to the law and avoid hassles with the Traffic Police – since it is also possible to use the required ‘safety’ glasses or solar films etc within parameters prescribed for transparency.

900 words: 06.06.2006: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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