The next time you are accused of speeding, when you believe you are within the rules, you could well be right - no matter what the reading on the speed guns used by the traffic police to catch you and impose a fine.
When Delhi-based Savyasachi Marwaha was intercepted and fined for speeding, even when he was driving his car at lower speed, he decided to get to the bottom of how the system worked. The Right to Information (RTI) Act was the weapon of choice used by this former services officer, who has also served as a public information officer (PIO). He decided to find out how many of the rules imposed on citizens are followed by the traffic department itself. The findings, which range from the equipment used to insurance and pollution certificates are a revelation.
Firstly, Mr Marwaha discovered through RTI applications that the Traffic Division had been using un-calibrated devices to fine drivers for over speeding. Worse, the interceptor van that they used to stop people, neither had an insurance policy nor a pollution under control (PUC) certificate. In fact, the vans were used without proper planning. The absence of insurance and pollution certificates are considered serious offences on the part of the public.
When Mr Marwaha first filed his RTI, he was provided some of the information in writing and asked to collect the rest through personal visits to concerned departments. The Office of the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic, CR), however, failed to produce PUC certificate or insurance policy documents of the Interceptor Van during his visit.
Mr Marwaha sought information on the specifications, servicing and maintenance records of the light detection and ranging (LIDAR) guns used to check car speeds, but received an unsatisfactory and incomplete reply. He then used Section 2(j) of the Act, seeking an inspection of the latest procurement file of the LIDAR guns.
Delhi Traffic Police (HQ) first declined this information on rather ludicrous grounds. It cited ‘commercial confidence and trade secrets’, disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party under the Section 8(1)(d) of the Act. The PIO also stated that no larger public interest is warranted in sharing the information.
However, Mr Marwaha, learnt that these LIDAR guns, used to measure speed of a vehicle, were never calibrated on a regular basis by Delhi Police. This may lead to faulty reading and thus levying fine for over speeding on drivers who are not even driving fast speed, he says.
He also found that the interceptor van placed near Army Public School on Vande Mataram Marg, did not have an insurance policy, while the on-duty police personnel were levying penalty on commuters.
“Delhi Traffic Police have no formal database management system to plan placement of interceptor vans at specific spots to catch over speeding vehicles. This is evident from the fact that they regularly place interceptor van near Army Public School on Vande Mataram Marg but never bother to check how many drivers were fined or issued challans by the on-duty Police,” he said.
Mr Marwaha tell us, "On 9 September 2017, when I was issued a challan, I saw the Police team intercepting about 5-6 drivers but they issued challan to only three drivers, including myself, during their two hours of duty. This is not possible because the number of vehicles flagged down by them were many more and it implies that the Police might have let them off by accepting small bribes. In addition, it also indicates that while the Delhi Traffic Police top brass cries hoarse over lack of manpower, they do not know how to judiciously employ their existing scarce resources. Hence, with more manpower they are unlikely to provide us with better policing.”
Not satisfied with the information supplied by the PIO, Mr Marwaha has now filed his first appeal and awaiting a response from the Appellate Authority.
Years ago when the radio detection and ranging (Radar) technology was replaced with the LIDAR, many thought that the defects such as inaccuracy and low resolution would be done away. Perhaps they seem to have forgotten that every tech gadget turns old with the daily development replacing the former and to every device, there exists some cons. Similar was then and same might be the case today as well. The Radio waves based technology failed to detect the accurate speed in dark conditions and thus paved way for the Light waves based speed guns. However a recent incident from Delhi has re-introduced this question again; whether the LIDAR guns used to nab motorists over-speeding is serving its cause?
Such instances block the way of transparency and prove that though the manpower available with the Delhi Traffic Police is feasible enough, they are not been used in its optimum. Here is the reply received by Mr Marwaha from Delhi Police…