Frankly, it was quite expected. HQs Western Command has not replied to a RTI application filed by me asking how and why has the vehicle registration plate been removed from the staff cars of the GOC-in-C and replaced by a plate saying WESTCOM 1 and WESTCOM 2 respectively.
I would certainly be taking the application to the logical conclusion and will exhaust every means available to eclicit a response, but that is besides the point. The moot point is why should the official car of the Army Commander be adorned with such a plate in utter and complete contravention of law? Is this going to percolate down the chain of command? Are we going to have Corps Commanders too going around with KHARGA 1, WHITE KNIGHTS 1 and Divisional Commanders going around with BLACK ELEPHANT 1, ACE OF SPADES 1, COCKEREL 1 and what not?
There are flags, star plates and pennants which adorn vehicles of officers of flag rank. These are meant to inform the observer about the rank and position of the officer travelling in it so that suitable compliments can be paid. What else is needed? The Army Commanders vehicle already has a very distinct flag with Ashoka emblem, three stars and formation sign on it apart from the star plate which has three stars on it. If someone still does not recognise the vehicle then clearly something is wrong with his or her eyesight and adorning the vehicle with WESTCOM 1 is not going to help.
Next, some eccentric commander would want to have stars on the sides of the vehicle also because there are no such distinctive feature there. And not to forget the top of the car AND the bottom for whoever is looking!
Surely there are more important things which should be occupying the mind of a formation commander then just adorning his vehicle with heraldry?
There have been some examples of funny displays in days of yore. But those have not been in any violation of law. There was one Brigade Commander who used to have the star plate displayed on the forehead of his horse when he went riding. Another Brigadier I know had a Jawan running after his horse bearing his pennant! Having a star plate on the golf cart is not even worth discussing here, it is so common.
But violating the Motor Vehicle Act is something else. No one has the right to so that. These staff cars bearing WESTCOM 1 and WESTCOM 2 should be challaned by the traffic police as they break the law with impunity. The Panchkula Police and the Chandigarh Police will soon have to answer some uncomfortable questions even if the Western Command chooses to remain silent. The media will be on the lookout.