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Illegal Tinted Windows - Supreme Court Ruling

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This is a hot topic now, as drivers all over Bangalore are peeling off the cooling films from their cars.  of course, this is happening all over India as well, following the recent Supreme Court ruling. I went ahead and read through the ruling to understand the logic behind the decision taken.  It is a 15 page ruling, and in my opinion, a very poor piece of work.


The court in its judgement (see here) argues basically that criminals use cars with dark tint and hence dark tinted windows are a bane to society.  However, as you read the judgement, another subtext emerges and it is clear that the court is straining to marshall arguments in favour of the decision it reached.  The bottom line is also clear.  Our police are not equipped to determine VLT (Visual Light Transmittance) and ensure that it adheres to the Motor Vehicles Act.  Hence, just get rid of all the films on glass.  it is easier to make sure manufacutrers confirm to the VLT requirement.  The gusto with which police forces are acting to implement the law is even more amazing.  They do not have the will to punish defective number plates which requires no meter.  But tinted windows ... yes we can...

On to the judgement.

In section 5, the judgement notes

"A device called luxometer can measure the level of opaqueness in windows owing to the application of black films but this device is a scarce resource and is very scantily available with the police personnel in India".

I have a luxmeter at work. It is not that expensive at all. If all the cops want to do is make sure windows have sufficient VLT, an even cheaper device can easily be made.

Another reference to our poor police force in section 8.

Non-availability of electronic devices to measure violations and lack of police force to enforce the Rules are also apparent from these replies.

Section 8 also notes

The petitioner also states that the use of black films is not prevalent in developed and/or developing countries all over the world.

Really? That is news to me. I lived in a developed country for some time and remember some ads.


The court then looks at Rule 100 of the Motor Vehicles Act which deals with construction of windows and the VLT (Visual Light Transittance). After that, it does what I regard as some leaps of imagination. The court notes that nowhere in the standards of construction of the window in the MV Act and Rules and the appropriate, referred to IS standard is there a mention of a film. I quote, from section 11

What is permitted has been specifically provided for and what has not been specifically stated would obviously be deemed to have been excluded from these Rules.

In other words, since the use of films is not covered in the act, it is obviously illegal! This is a tragedy and a case of the court legislating from its perch. Why is it so? Automobile safety is an engineering matter, among other things. VLT specs are also engineering specs. Standards in engineering are always written to give a minimum required need. It is absurd to say that since something is not explicitly written in the legislation and rules , that it is illegal. This law is 24 years old. Here is another example. Let us assume that the use of side air bags is not included in the legislation. Now a manufacturer decided to provide side air bags for additional safety. Would that be illegal as well?

In section 18, there is another effort at streching the argument

Another adverse aspect of use of black films is that even if they reflect tolerable VLT in the day time, still in the night it would clearly violate the prescribed VLT limits and would result in poor visibility, which again would be impermissible.

The honorable supreme courts engineering consultant screwed up badly. The words reflect should never come near a term such as VLT, where T stands for transmittance. Secondly, the VLT does not change from day to night, only the amount of light available reduces with the sun settiing.

So now, you have a judgement which bans add on films while permitting tinted windows supplied by the manufactuer conforming to the MVA 1988 VLT limits. In other words - cops cannot measure this number. We are poor, we are understaffed and we are a banana republic. Ban the films on some specious reasons and lower the prestige of the supreme court by having such a pathetically written 15 pages written up for prosterity. I wish they had the guts to simply state the real reasons.


shas3n's picture


235 users have liked.

Someone had to come out and say this. Good job Sanjay.

May be there are some reasons for the ban beyond security but in my view, this is just another case of security theater.


ramesh_mbabu's picture

Ban all vehicles on road, go back to STONE AGE

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We are unable to reduce the road accidents ( owing to resource constraints! It just increases YoY. So let us ban all vehicles and machines for that matter and go back to stone age. Also lots of criminal activities happen behind the closed doors/windows, so no more windows & doors for the houses or no more houses at all! Let us live in open ;)

They examined the technicalities thread bare and arrived at a conclusion that VIPs with z-category security are exempted from this rule.

Another issue that has been raised in the present Writ Petition is that certain VIPs/VVIPs are using black films on their vehicles for security reasons.   Even this practice is not supported by law, as no notification by the competent authority has been brought to our notice, giving exemption to such vehicles from the operation of Rule 100 or any of its provisions.    Be that as it may, we do not wish to enter upon the arena of the security and safety measures when the police department and Home Ministry consider such exemption appropriate.      The cases of the persons who have been provided with Z and Z+ security category may be considered by a Committee consisting of the Director General of Police/Commissioner of Police of the concerned State and the Home Secretary of that State/Centre.         It will be for that Committee to examine such cases for grant of exemption in accordance with law and upon due application of mind. These certificates should be provided only in relation to official cars of VIPs/VVIPs, depending upon the category of security that such person has been awarded by the competent authority.     The appropriate government is free to make any regulations that it may consider appropriate in this regard.

This is when we have people jailed with terrorism charges given the z-category secruity

It seems judiciary is trying to beat the executive & legislature in their fiefdom of interpreting laws to meet their own convenience. What should one interpret when manufacture fitted glass with a VLT of 70 & 50 are allowed while the films meeting the same spec are banned outright? Sure we can shame even a banana republic!


idontspam's picture

Tint limits

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Tint limits on front windows is universally enforced in other countries but purely for automobile driver safety issues.

See here for the tint limits in various US states for example 

BTP have notified a lmit of 50% VLT on side windows & 70% VLT on front/rear windshield. It does not make a distinction for rear windows/windshield


murali772's picture

implementation of court orders

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@ Sanjay
since the use of films is not covered in the act, it is obviously illegal!

Excerpts from the ToI report (click here for the full report), reads as below:

The rule is clear - 70% visibility must for front and rear glasses and 50% for the side glasses.

So, the court ruling states specifically that films are not allowed, or is it your deduction?

Further excerpts (from the same report):

Consultation camps: Traffic police will set up consultation camps at a few places in the city where vehicle owners can even get their dark glasses removed and put the permissible density tinted one in place. Camps will be organized at Kanteerava Stadium, BRV Grounds, Indiranagar (near the RTO office), among other places, from May 10.

The Penalty: Any car found with darktinted glasses will attract a penalty from May 19. Cases will be booked under Nos 92 and 100 of the Central Motor Vehicles Rule read with section 177 of Central Motor Vehicles Act. Those found violating the rule after May 19 will attract penalty Rs 100. If the rule is violated for the second time, the penalty will be Rs 300 while for the third consecutive violation, it will be Rs 300 and the driving licence will be suspended.

Well, when the Supreme Court has ruled, there are no options other than to follow them, I guess. But, wait a minute - even in the face of any number of orders by the Supreme Court, as well as the High Court (check this), between the BBMP and state government, not only have they failed to remove "places of worship" from roadsides, but merrily allow new ones to proliferate - like this one on the ORR median.

And, like Sanjay has pointed out, on the more serious issues like the Kannada Number Plates (check this), there doesn't seem to be enough of a seriousnress in implementing the rules strictly. Like in the 'places of worship' issue, I expect even a court order will not be of much help here.

Muralidhar Rao

Good order

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I have not read the order in full but I think the restriction on dark films is justified for another reason.

When we are  driving we get a good idea of the traffic ahead through the rear and front wind shields of the vehicles ahead. The use of dark films blocks this view completely and therefore reduces our ability to drive safely.I have often experienced this especially when driving at night in the city and on the highways.

I am sure there are standards prescribed in many countries all over the world.




idontspam's picture

Completely tint free?

210 users have liked.

I just heard that ALL tints should be removed completely which is quite ridiculous. I think they should start with BMTC buses & other public vehicles first including police vehicles.

If they want to implement they should look for 50% VLT in the front seat windows & 70% VLT for front windshield. 

idontspam's picture

I am sure there are standards

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I am sure there are standards prescribed in many countries all over the world

All standards apply to driver side & front only from an automotive safety perspective, not for rear and other windows where privacy is respected & they allow a reasonable tint like in the wiki link I sent. I thik this security & nefarious activity thinng is just bullshit

Why dont they go after folded side view mirrors on cars? That is a serious threat to life & limb

ramesh_mbabu's picture

Re:Completely tint free?

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The following is the exact wordings from the verdict.

 Thus, on the plain

reading of the Rule and the IS standards, use of black films of

any density is impermissible. Another adverse aspect of use

of black films is that even if they reflect tolerable VLT in the

day time, still in the night it would clearly violate the

prescribed VLT limits and would result in poor visibility,

which again would be impermissible.


It is full of factual errors bad interpretations. I beleive it will not stand further scrutiny by a division bench, if that happens ever.

The fact as it stands after the verdict is that - if the glass follows the 70,30 standard when the manufacturer provides it it is valid. Any modifications by the user later is illegal. The reason quoted being the police force does not have enough luxometer to measure it. Have not seen a judge so concerned about the consequences of his judgement!



sanjayv's picture

No film allowed

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@ Murali - no interpretation involved here.  I read every line of the judgement.  No film is allowed.  if tinting is required, it should be from original manufacturer.  TOI and most of the press does a poor job of reading plain english and reporting anything that is slightly complex.

@ CNKumar The 70% VLT for front and 50% for the side windows pretty much takes care of all the safety  aspects.  All that is equired is to enforce this provision.  There is no need to bring a law to REMOVE all films.


srinidhi's picture

tint for energy drain..

199 users have liked.

yes tint is needed for privacy etc..but a more important aspect for me is the radiation blocking features of these tints..the 3M ones atleast claim and mention this..

This eventually supposed to reduce a/c usage and inturn save dropping the films means more fuel usage!

there is also another aspect of UV blocking..guess we can save on some sunscreen here! :P


sreeraj's picture

I feel let down

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As a law abiding citizen, I had spent extra money to use films (3M) that ensure compliance to the MVA act on VLT. Such films with high VLT specs are more expensive due to the reason that the films must undergo quality tests for VLT by manufacturer. Suddenly, I have become a criminal and it is the Honorable Supreme Court that I have considered as the savior of my rights that has done this. Where do I go for recourse now? Am I not entitled to some comfort and protect myself at reasonable cost against skin cancer, sun burn etc while travelling? Are Indian's second grade citizens of  the world? Will we ban kitchen knives tomorrow since they are used to commit murders? Similarly gas cylinders, aeroplanes (motor vehicles?) , zebra crossings, high rise buildings (people jump off them or get pushed off them), trees (they fall on you), wells (you can push somebody you dont like into a well), bottles (they are used to make petrol bombs) and ofcourse petrol and kerosine, hockey sticks (can be used as clubs to beat somebody to death), karate/ kungfu and the list goes on..... As a sincere citizen, working like any other to improve the living conditions of our great country, I feel let down and sad. 

sanjayv's picture

Others agree, it appears

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Finally, an article in the Hindu today got to the right conclusion.

"Did the Supreme Court “err” in interpreting that the law does not permit use of sun films on vehicles' windscreens and only vehicle manufacturers can provide tinted glass with users having no right to alter the level of tint by affixing sun films? "

More here.

idontspam's picture

Oh sweet, wait for deadline

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Oh sweet, wait for deadline then review the verdict, what were these learned people doing all these days? Sunfilm manufacturers are laughing away.

raghavs2001's picture

Started in Hyderabad

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I have read the judgement of the Hon'ble bench.  There are couple of points here:
 1.Why should manufacture of the glass decide the VLT?  If they have provided a high VLT of 80% or 100% on side screens why can't a user change this in permissible limits?  I couldn't get the logic/technical reason at all in this?  Why is this retrospective & not prospective
      If it happens that I buy car which has 90% of VLT 2 years back should I bear the heat of summers and still can't get my glasses tinted in permissible limits?   In the larger interest of public I should forego my luxury - this is unbelievable.
2 .Its really informative that it has covered that many countries in the world don't allow tinted glasses.  The Hon'ble court might also have considered the day temperatures of those courtries. 

Is there a way to Appeal this judgement ?  Its absolutely fine to have a limits on VLT.  But why only manufacture can fix that and individual can't alter it in permissible limits.  Do I need to pay hundreds & thousands of rupees to replace my car screens which have VLT in limit to save my family from summer heat?
I feel like I'm living in a Taliban ruled country where no one can question the supreme power.  I feel helpless to protect my rights.  Hon'ble supreme court has left all import matter like getting black money back to air & started giving knee jerk reactions to such a common problem.  I don't understand the logic at all. 
Pathetic state of affair !!

srinidhi's picture

Tint is overrated

200 users have liked.

A small correction, the judgement was not setting any new was only enforcing the already written rule by the govt..

Btw tint is really overrated, we in blr have removed it since last 6 months..through the summer too and it has  not really made much difference..also the efficiency of AC getting affected seems to be marginal and not really noticeable..

Infact with the clear glass you get a better view of the world out there would say..yes one tends to loose a level of privacy..but would say 'get a room' to that!


sanjayv's picture

Enforcing written rule?

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Sri, I disagree a bit here.  The judgement was not enforcing a written rule.  It was reading between the lines and saying altering the VLT of the glass using film while still complying with the rules is illegal.  I strongly disagree with such a position by the court.  Unfortunately, this is the Supreme court, so we have no recourse to change anything.  The only solution would be for the government to either clarify rules or include the film part in an amendment to the motor vehicle act 1989 which has been pending for years now.

ramesh_mbabu's picture

It has become more interesting now

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The film manufacturers had filed a review petition. The court rejected it, held a view that the initial verdict is right. The apparent reason given is that, the MV Act says end users can not modify a vehicle after purchase, this rule is used to justify ban on pasting film treating this as a modification done after the purchase! If argued in this manner, fixing a music system, adding AC etc. can not be done legally. The following is a report on the second verdict, it does not refer the above argument, but I had read the detailed report, don't remember the source though. No reason why general public shy away from litigations, thread bare legal analysis and original plot is lost in legal alleys!! comment guidelines

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