It took the Delhi Traffic Police half a year and complaints from a Right to Information (RTI) activist to acknowledge that two senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders had broken traffic rules during a protest rally held in central Delhi last year.
Due to the traffic police’s delayed response, however, Vijay Goel, then president of the BJP’s Delhi unit and currently a Rajya Sabha MP, and senior BJP leader Vijender Gupta escaped being directly penalised for riding a motorcycle without helmets during an impromptu rally held to demand former Delhi chief minister Shiela Dikshit’s resignation on September 1, 2013.
Instead, the owner of the two-wheeler in question, which was being driven by Goel with Gupta as his pillion rider, had to pay their fines -- R100 each -- because the traffic police ‘couldn’t book’ the duo for the violation on the spot despite massive police deployment in the area at the time.
Under the Motor Vehicles (MV) Act, if the police fail to book a traffic offender on the spot, a fine is issued to the person under whose name the offending vehicle is found registered at the local transport authority.
“I decided to file the RTI after I saw pictures of the rally, which had scores of BJP workers protesting outside Diskhit’s residence on Ashoka Road, riding motorcycles without helmets,” said Jagjeet Singh Walia, who filed the RTI which has been accessed by HT.
“When I asked the traffic police why no fines were issued, they told me that it was because they didn’t have any information about it. Are the police expected to be given prior information about traffic violations?” Walia asked.
In fact, in its reply to Walia’s RTI application, RS Chauhan, DCP, Traffic, Central Range stated ‘The traffic police’s job is to ensure smooth flow of vehicular traffic in the city and in such rallies composed of massive crowds, it isn’t possible to issue fines’.
Walia then converted his RTI application into a complaint about the offence, which he proved through a picture of the rally, which had begun at Ashoka Road around noon and ended at Dikshit’s official residence at one pm on September one, published in HT’s edition the next day.
Finally, on April 28, 2014, the traffic police said they had penalised the owners of four motorcycles that had participated in the rally — identified through their registration numbers in the HT picture — for riding without helmets.
“The protest was a symbolic one,” said Vijay Goel when contacted for comment. “Section 144 was imposed in the area and our objective was to democratically demonstrate against the then CM. In any case, we will reimburse the party worker who has been fined.”
Vijender Gupta said, “You see, the protest was of a kind which was against the government per se. Didn’t Mahatma Gandhi carry out the Dandi March with deliberate knowledge that he was breaking the law? We broke the law to awaken the government of the day.”