The number of traffic violators has risen steadily with a majority of them not paying the fine. Police hope to recover money from to over 25 lakh unpaid e-challans.
Written by Anjali Jayaraj
December 03, 2020
Mumbai: Traffic e- challan fines of more than Rs 602 crore are unpaid across Maharashtra since 2016-17. Data released by State transport commissioner, Avinash Dhakne shows that Mumbai accounts for almost Rs 280 crore.
The state government has planned to increase fines under the Motor Vehicle Act but the rule is not yet implemented in the state.
“The number of traffic violators who haven’t paid e-challan amount has increased in the city. Most high-end car owners are unaware about the pending challans on their cars,” said DCP Balasaheb Patil of Thane traffic police.
Anil Koli, Sr. RTO Police inspector of Azad Maidan division said, “Most of the time college students and rickshaw drivers are not able to pay the fine on the spot as they do not have cards in hand when they are caught violating traffic rules. The offenders have to pay the fine within 15 days and from the 16th day, Rs 10 is charged per day if the payment is delayed. If we catch offenders with fines over Rs 10,000, we try to get half amount of the fine from them. We ask them to at least pay Rs 6,000.’’
“We gave a little leeway during lockdown as everyone had some or the other financial crisis which is why there is such a huge backlog of unpaid e-challans. People who have money pay the whole amount and the pending fines. They wait for us to catch them till then they don’t want to pay the fine. Also, sometimes the server is down so people who want to log in to the app to pay the e-challan face network issues,” he said.
“Sometimes when the traffic police officer doesn’t have a machine in hand, they click a picture of the number plate from their phone. I recovered Rs. 11,30,000 in June during lockdown. We cannot recover the full amount in a day or month. It will take time and we are preparing a standard operating procedure for fine recovery in the next few days,” he adds.
Vijay Ganapati Ingavale RTO(Regional Transport Office) Inspector of Kolhapur said, “We catch a lot of people here for speed violations. The state traffic police reduced the speed limit of cars on expressways from 120 kmph to 100 kmph for the safety of the commuters but some of them do not adhere to traffic rules while driving on expressways.’’
“ANPR ( Automatic Number Plate Recognition) system is used to recognize the license number of the vehicle, monitor vehicles average speed. According to the Indian Evidence Act, it is hard to prove the authenticity of the e-challan as sometimes it does not capture the picture of the driver clearly,” he adds.
In September, the Regional Transport Office distributed 250 machines to inspectors and assistant inspectors across the state to completely stop the manual work of issuing challan to traffic violators.
Pradip Kadam, Sr. Police Inspector of Bandra said,”Some people don’t stop their vehicle when we ask them to do so. During Covid-19 situation we had given certain allowance but we have to do our work as well. From now on, we will take strict actions against habitual offenders. I recovered Rs one lakh last month from my division. We will seize their licenses and give it to regional transport office.”
On December 2, Thane traffic department collected e-challan of Rs. 6 lakh in a day from 1,708 motorists. The department has also started to impound vehicles of traffic violators from December 1 in some divisions. In order to recover the unsettled amount, the traffic department has listed out violators with more than Rs. 10,000 fine and given it to the RTO.
DCP Balasaheb Patil of Thane traffic police said, “There is 82 percent pendency of e-challans in my division and it is a major problem. On November 19, I held a press conference and asked people to pay their e-challans before November 30. From December 1 we started strict regulation to retrieve the huge backlog. Most of them don’t know how to pay online so we even addressed that issue in the press conference. We recovered Rs. two lakh worth of fines in a day before Covid-19 situation. After the conference, we recovered Rs. three lakh per day and from December 1 we have recovered more than Rs. lakh worth fines per day. People think they can avoid the fine as there is no one to follow up after the e-challan is sent to them. Some of them give wrong mobile numbers in RTO office.”
‘’In a metropolitan city like Mumbai, people value time. They don’t want to waste a single minute of their day. I have asked my officers to seize the driving licence and RC (Registration certificate) book of the e-challan defaulters,’’ he adds.
E-challans are transparent, the traffic violator knows the offence for which he is booked and the penalty due. There are still some e-challan defaulters who avoid fines by providing wrong address and phone number.
Another police inspector said,”Heavy duty vehicles make slight changes on their number plate. Change O to C so that they don’t get caught. Some of them purposely apply dust on the number plate to not get recognized.”
A traffic violator said, “There is no fear of getting caught on a daily basis. I don’t even know how many pending challans have been issued on my vehicle. We can pay later also. They sent wrong e-challans on my vehicle so I didn’t pay a few fines.”
Traffic violators can now challenge the e-challans virtually on the basis of section 208 of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1998. The traffic violator receives an option to challenge the charge of fine after receiving a summons on their phone. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, courts were not functioning for seven months. Last month Chief Justice of India S A Bobde inaugurated the first virtual court for traffic violation in Maharashtra.
The traffic department has decided to start a drive from December 15. They have been given orders to visit e-challan defaulters house to recover the amount. Also, they have been asked to accept cash fines from now on.
Gopal R. Patil, Professor of Department of Civil Engineering of Indian Institute of Technology Bombay said, “People are not used to paying traffic violation penalties online. It is unreasonable to assume that everyone will pay the penalty of e-challans by themselves without any inter-linking to other services. We need to link the traffic violations to driving license, insurance, PUC, and other services. Automatic messages should be sent to the defaulter with reminders. Easy ways of paying penalty should be made available.”
“We already have strict regulations. It is more to do with implementations. I believe it is more effective to fix a lesser penalty for a violation and enforce it more effectively than fixing a heavy penalty with weaker enforcement,” he adds.