The Delhi government’s reported move to bring the process of penalising autorickshaw drivers for traffic violations under the Delhi Transport Department has drawn mixed response from policy makers. Auto unions here say the underlying issue being addressed by the Aam Aadmi Party is valid, and is one that has been raised by the unions here in their negotiations last month.
The Auto Rickshaw Drivers’ Union (ARDU) here has complained that the process of penalising them for traffic offences is “arbitrary”.
A response to ARDU’s RTI query, a copy of which was shared with The Hindu, indicates that over 23.66 lakh cases are pending against auto drivers, all booked by the Traffic Automation Centre between January 1, 2010, and May 31, 2013. Penalties worth Rs. 23 crore are pending.
On how notices are served, the centre said registration numbers were noted down by in-charge policemen, a field traffic violation report generated and entered in the TAC database under Section 133 of the Indian Motor Vehicles (IMV) Act, and notice sent to owners. The reply admitted that several complaints are received via email.
In response to ARDU’s query on whether any of these cases had been referred to the courts, the reply said, “Under Section 200 of the IMV Act, compoundable offences are not sent to court.”
Further, on the legality of traffic police using cameras at junctions, the information officer from the office of the Assistant Commissioner of Police (Traffic) said, “There is no legal provision to do so… However, the policeman can capture the photo and report it to a higher official.”
These admissions, ARDU’s Rudramurthy said, are “incriminating”. According to him, the numbers point to a “deeper problem”. “Yes, there are traffic offences that are committed, but not having a system of appeal and the arbitrariness of some of the offences that are booked against us leads to harassment,” he said.
B. Dayanand, ACP (Traffic), said the automation centre was set up to increase transparency, and all challans raised therein were backed by evidence. According to him, the system has “significantly decreased” the number of traffic offences.
That there was no system of appeal is “misconception and not true”, he said. “For each challan, the accused can go to court and show the evidence they have to prove their innocence.”