Enforcing fines for bad driving practices an uphill task for traffic cops
The new motor vehicles act had come with the promise of improving road safety in the national capital by bringing bad driving practices under the ambit of law. But three months after its implementation, the Delhi Traffic Police is struggling to enforce fines under new offences because of lack of clarity.
The department said that they were waiting for the Delhi government to notify the Act.
While the police are issuing challans for offences such as red light jumping, speeding and drink driving already listed in the old version of the road safety act, the fines are settled in courts because the Delhi government has not notified them for on-the-spot payment mode.
But officials say enforcement of the newly recognised offences is not being done because of lack of clarity from the government. “We are not even sure if they government will recognise the new offences mentioned in the new Act. It will become clear only after the Act is notified,” said an officer on the condition of anonymity.
Senior Delhi Traffic Police officials said the Motor Vehicles Amendment Act was implemented along with other states from September 1, where newly recognised offences such as blocking the way of emergency vehicles, passengers in rear seats not wearing seat belts and violations by web-based cab aggregator services such as Ola and Uber were recognised as traffic offences.
Under the new act, officials enforcing the traffic rules are liable to pay double the prescribed fine amount for any violation.
For instance, under the amended MVA drivers have to pay R1,000 for jumping the red light. However, if a traffic official is caught committing the same offence, they will have to pay R2,000.
Until the Delhi government issues a notification listing details of the offences for which fines can be issued on-the-spot by the traffic police and what share of the total fine amount can be collected from the violators, the implementation will continue to suffer, officials said.
For the last three months, all fines issued by the Delhi Traffic Police are being sent to court.
“We are issuing fines because technically the Act is in force since September 1, but on many areas, we are restricted because the compounding powers for the police are yet to be notified. While it is easy to issue fines for offences that are already known and recognised by people, for the newly recognised violations some baseline will have to be set and that can only be done if we have the government order. There is no clarity now,” said a senior traffic official, on the condition of anonymity.
The official explained that following up on court challans is a tedious process for the traffic police department. With a limited staff strength of just over 5,000 officials, the department cannot afford to have its constabulary staff getting stuck with court duty every day.
Joint commissioner of police (traffic) Narendra Singh Bundela said the revised fine and violation list is in effect and regular awareness drives are being carried out to educate commuters about of new offences and the increased amounts payable.
“All the offences recognised under the amended act are valid starting September 1. Since there has been so much publicity around the act, people know about the offences but we are organising regular awareness campaigns around it too,” Bundela said.
Under the new law, blocking emergency vehicles will attract a fine of R10,000. Before this the police had to invoke special provisions to punish drivers blocking ambulances and fire tenders but this was only done for certain cases. Apart from this, the act has also now made it mandatory for passengers on the rear seat to wear seat belts, failing which a fine of R1000 will be levied.
The amended MV Act, under section 198, has the provision that in case a driver or passenger meets with an accident because of problems in design, maintenance and construction of roads, they can write to road-owning agencies. In case of death or disability, agencies will be liable for a penalty of up to R1lakh.
Senior Delhi government officials said the notification will be issued once objections and recommendations are considered from all stakeholders.
“We are still getting recommendations from agencies. We want to give a robust road safety law to the people,” said a senior Delhi government official.
Experts, however, stood divided over the government’s slow steps in implementing the road safety law.
Piyush Tewari, founder of road safety NGO SaveLife Foundation, said that while not having a definitive plan from the government does impede on-ground enforcement, there is a sense that the law that is finally approved by the state government will not compromise on the motive behind the road safety mission, which was the original intention of the new law.
“Many states have reduced the fine amounts and neutralised the act, but here we do get a sense that the city government will come up with a law that will be true to the original act passed,” said Tiwari.
Former traffic chief Maxwell Pereira said that the new law will have meaning only when it is enforced on road.
“The fine amount revision was long overdue. In fact, these rates were suggested when I was still in office and it has already been about 15 years since I retired. But all this will have no meaning if the rules aren’t enforced. Safe driving practices will only come with deterrence,” Pereira said.