Punjab drive to end fancy number culture hits hurdle
Last December, the transport department asked to issue alternative number to owners of vehicles with VIP culture numbers, already banned in neighbouring Haryana and Himachal Pradesh
The Punjab government’s drive to put brakes on the VIP culture of vintage vehicle registration numbers has hit a speedbreaker. Despite orders to discontinue old fancy registration numbers, also called vintage numbers, in December, about 100 owners have approached the state transport department for a new number so far.
The authorities say there are thousands of such vehicles with fancy numbers, mainly owned by politicians, bureaucrats and influential people, in the state. A huge amount of money and irregularities are involved in the registration and renewal process during the sale and purchase of the vintage numbers. Sources say there are nearly 200 series of numbers, including PIB, PAC, PUP, PAP, PCR and PAU, that have been discontinued by the department.
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In December last year, chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh had ordered the discontinuation of the old registration numbers that were in use even after the enforcement of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. The aim was to end the VIP culture and curb illegal activities.
The transport department was asked to issue alternative numbers to owners of vehicles with such numbers, which were already banned in neighbouring Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, according to Section 217 (read with Section 41) of the Motor Vehicles Act.
Irregularities by former officials delay process
An official dealing with the registration of such numbers blamed the delay on technical issues. “We have not been able to trace the tax records of the owners of vehicles with vintage numbers, which is mandatory, because of the irregularities by former officials. Some of them used backlog entries in the system, especially in Faridkot district, to register such numbers,” he said.
Requesting anonymity, an official privy to the development said that all big political families and MLAs of the state are among those who surrendered their vintage numbers, but many bureaucrats and influential people have not surrendered their numbers.
Status symbol becomes security risk
Many vehicle owners prefer to retain old registration numbers as a status symbol but it’s a security risk in the border state of Punjab, an official said. Vehicles with VIP numbers are often misused by anti-social elements to carry out subversive activities as these vehicles are not stopped for checking by the police.
“With such registration numbers used on multiple vehicles over the years, identification of original owners is difficult since old records are either untraceable or have been destroyed to accommodate VIPs,” the official said.
Senior transport department officials that insurance companies will stop ensuring such vehicles as the numbers have been discontinued and violators will face action. When contacted, state transport commissioner Amarpal Singh was not available for comment.
Vintage number owners approach court
Some vintage number owners have moved the Punjab and Haryana high court against the Punjab government’s decision to discontinue the pre-1988 Motor Vehicles Act numbers. A senior transport department official said people are awaiting the verdict.
Harjinder Singh Sidhu, who filed the petition in the high court, said his vehicle carries the registration number, PUI0007, bearing the high-security registration number plant according to provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act. Besides, the details have been uploaded on the Centre’s m-Parivahan portal.
He said that the action of the authorities in calling upon the petitioner to surrender his registration No. PUI0007 would be in violation of the mandate under Section 217-A of the Motor Vehicles Act.
The next hearing in the matter is on May 10.
Deputy state transport commissioner Manjit Singh said that court has clubbed the bunch of petitions, but no stay has been granted on the Punjab government’s orders so far.