Autowallahs run their own court in this town | india | Hindustan Times
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Autowallahs run their own court in this town

india Updated: Dec 16, 2007 02:20 IST
Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu
Hindustan Times
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Delhi's bullying autowallahs could take a lesson from their comrades-on-wheels in Kerala.

The north Kerala town of Payyanur has a court where passengers can file complaints against misbehaviour, traffic violation and eve-teasing.

The court was begun in Kerala's Kannur district as an exercise in self discipline after complaints against auto drivers started mounting.

Drunk driving invites a month's suspension, misbehaviour a heavy fine and licence confiscation and traffic violators are immediately warned and fined. The sentence, of course, varies according to the degree of the crime.

Every Saturday the auto court sits to settle petitions.

And the results are showing on Payyanur's roads, which have not witnessed eve teasing or mugging, even in the dead of the night.

"When we began the court last year, every week we used to get dozens of complaints. Slowly, the numbers reduced. This Saturday, we had only three. All three were minor ones," Payyanur Auto Union secretary and CITU leader UP Ramachandran said.

Those handing out justice in the auto court are drivers or representatives of various trade unions. The CITU, INTUC and BMS run the court.

Passengers and law enforcement agencies seem happy. "We give them full support. Serious violations and crime are referred to us instantly. True, complaints against auto cabbies have come down drastically," the station house officer of Payyanur, T Sukumaran, said.

In Payyanur municipality alone there are over 1,100 three-wheelers. All drivers have identity cards and a number that they have to display prominently on their vehicle. This helps passengers identify mischief makers.

All big auto stands have complaint boxes. Passengers can also go directly to the court. When a hearing is on, a complainant can appear before it to argue his case.

There have also been instances when the court has heard complaints against passengers. Recently, it sought the help of the police to identify two persons who refused to pay after hiring a vehicle for almost two hours.

Many other Kerala towns are planning to replicate the auto court system.

"Usually auto and taxi cabbies of Malabar are men of high integrity. The latest step has really helped them identify the black sheep, if any. It is a boon for passengers also," said Revathi, a student of Payyanur College.

In the early eighties, the then Bombay Police Commissioner had sent a team of cab drivers to Kozhikode to learn "good