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Challan chaos

Delhi drivers are feeling the sting of the amended Motor Vehicles Act as they discover that no mercy will be shown to them for violating traffic rules

You can afford to forget your lunch before leaving home but not the official documents pertaining to your vehicle. Licence, insurance papers, vehicle registration documents, pollution under control certificate— all carry hefty fines under the new Motor Vehicles Act 2019. Also, don’t forget to wear a helmet if you are on a two-wheeler and strap on the seat belt if you are in your car.

The new Act has struck terror among the public. One person got so agitated he even set his bike on fire over a drunken driving challan of Rs 25,000.

The Motor Vehicles Act has 63 clauses which aim to impose heavy penalty on traffic violators across the country. For instance, driving without licence incurs a fine of Rs 5,000, while speeding, drunken driving and pollution standards violations are capped at Rs 2,000-4,000, Rs 10,000 and Rs 10,000 respectively.

If a person disobeys the orders of authorities, then another fine of Rs 2,000 will be slapped.

Motorists might be agitated but more of them are taking care to comply with the rules, since the hefty fines are here to stay. On an average, Delhi Traffic Police has been issuing 4,813 challans per day, while the previous month’s figure was four times this figure at 16,788 per day.

Compoundable challans are those which can be paid on the spot. According to Section 200 of the new MV Act, there are 14 compoundable offences for which you need not go to court. However, for offences like jumping the traffic light, driving against the flow, minor driving without licence and driving under influence (drugs, alcohol), you have to present yourself in the courtroom of a Metropolitan Magistrate.

To see how these hefty traffic challans are being settled in a courtroom, Patriot went to the Capital’s Karkardooma Court to observe court proceedings and to speak to those paying hefty challans. It’s not a happy place.

In the courtroom

Standing outside Courtroom No. 18 is Javed Maan, 25, who has come from Nirman Vihar in east Delhi. Maan is here to get his father’s 24-day old grey Honda Activa which was impounded on September 5 at 8:16 am, when Maan was approaching Ghazipur Mandi, where he works.

The violations under MVA were — Driving without license (Section 3/181), Allowing unauthorised person to drive (Section 5/180), without insurance papers (Section 146/196) and without PUC — pollution certificate (Section 190), without documents (Section 136/177).

On September 5, when Maan was stopped by a traffic cop, he was startled by the fact that a “new vehicle could be stopped too. These new rules have alerted all the policemen.”

He said he tried ‘settling’ the case there. But the traffic cop did not listen to a word. Within a minute’s time, he had the paper in hand. “I got scared because I heard about the huge fines people are paying.”

His brother Shaad, accompanying him to court, was running around looking for a lawyer who could appeal on their behalf “for a discount from the judge,” he clarifies.

Although the date given to Maan was September 6, he failed to appear due to illness. He was given September 11 as a fresh date to appear before the judge. Before appearing, the duo went to the Honda showroom in the hope of getting some document which could save them in court. However, nothing was provided.

On the first floor of Karkardooma Courts Complex sits Metropolitan Magistrate Balwinder Singh. The room is packed with a traffic police inspector, lawyers and people who are either facing criminal charges or come to pay the fine.

Javed and Shaad are waiting obediently for their turn. In the court since 10 am, the duo says the wait seems tougher than paying the fine.

As the wait continues for another hour, the time by now is 12:30 pm, and the person whose managing the court proceedings shouts “Javed Maan.” The duo, appear before the judge. Javed is ordered to stand straight and not move. The magistrate looks up the documents and orders a fine of Rs 11,500, after the duo plead for relief.

Also in the courtroom is Deepak Chawla, who lives in Modinagar. He was driving a bus without a driving license and had an expired PUC (pollution certificate). “I was just exiting the CNG station at Patparganj. On the main road, I was stopped by the traffic police officer. I knew I’m in a mess, I forgot to carry my driving licence and pollution certificate anyway expired a week back,” says Chawla.

Chawla owns a mini-bus and plies in Delhi-NCR and beyond, if some business comes his way. When he entered the courtroom, he was quite scared, because he says “Bus drivers are seen in bad light and there’s little room for relaxation.”

When he came out, he was visibly angry. “I had to pay Rs 15,000,” he said, stomping off.

A father-son sitting in the corridor in front of the many courtrooms spoke little about their fines, and more about journalism. Then the father abruptly said, “Bhar aaye hum fine. Humein koi dukh nahi hain.” (We paid the fine. We are not sad)

The father, who refused to give his name, says, “These kind of rules are important in a Capital city because it will lead to everyone following rules. It’s important. We have paid fine, but we are happy that at least we will be disciplined.”

Further plans

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal recently said that states do have the freedom when it comes to implementation of the Motor Vehicles Act. He also said there are some categories of offences where states can decide compounding fee, but challans coming under most categories will be directly settled in  court.

“However, we are studying how other states are saying that they will not implement it,” he also said.

The Gujarat government reduced fine amounts which are set by the Centre in the Motor Vehicles Act. While the new MVA, set Rs 1,000 for not wearing a helmet while driving, the Gujarat government has finalised the amount at Rs 500. The same decrease in fine, has also been set for driving a four-wheeler vehicle without wearing a seat belt. For driving without licence, the fine has been brought down from Rs 5,000 to Rs.2,000 and Rs 3,000 for two-wheelers and four-wheelers, respectively.

If we take United States as an example, the city of New York has fines of $1,000-2,500 (Rs 71,677 to Rs 1.8 lakh) for “Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated”, which is stricter than a regular “Drinking While Intoxicated” charge, which is followed in other states.

Delhi and New York City currently have one thing in common, which is the fine for driving without a licence. While Dilliwalas are paying Rs 5,000, city goers in New York City, also have to pay the equivalent of Rs 5,375.