"I received a notice for parking in a ‘no parking’ area on 14th March in Siddiah Puranik Road, near KHB Colony. This road is in Basaveshwaranagar. I don’t even recall going to this area at least in the last six months and I am sure no one has even taken my vehicle (car) to this place," complains Anantha Murthy, who wrote to Citizen Matters about his experience. He claims that the notice he received from the Traffic Police is baseless.
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Sumit Chandra, an IT professional who travels from RT Nagar to Jayadeva Circle everyday says he received a notice for jumping a signal at MG Road on 7th March but he claims he never violated traffic rules, "I never jump signals and I remember not jumping a signal ever till date. I was shocked to receive this notice," he explains.
These are just a few among many who claim to have received wrong notices for reasons such as driving over the speed limit, parking at no parking zones, jumping signals and so on. But the traffic police department denies any major flaws in issuing notices to the traffic violators.
Praveen Sood, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) says, "Some complaints are simply baseless. Ideally a person will get a notice within 20-25 days of (the incident)." He feels it is not believable that the person complaining can remember clearly if he/she were talking on phone while driving at a particular date and time in the past. "I would ask that person to prove (to) me that he has not committed the violation and then complain. It is his word against mine." However, he accepts that there can be a probability of two to three per cent error from his department’s side.
Sood says that the process of filing a complaint and eventually sending the notice is very elaborate and precise with very little scope for errors.
"The moment I catch somebody for overspeeding on the Devanahalli road, the first thing he does is deny any speeding, he continues till I show my machine (the speed gun). After that he argues that my machine is not working properly and I am trying to earn money from him. Once this argument fails he questions why the speed limit should be 80 kilometres/hour and not 120 kilometres/hour. Once I am done explaining, he argues that because it was an empty road, he can jolly well drive at full speed…The arguments are endless. The person caught sometimes gets angry and abuses us too." – R Ramesh, a constable
When an offender is caught, details of his vehicle are noted down in an elaborate form called FTVR (a traffic violation record used to note incidents in the field). This form has different columns describing the nature of violation, vehicle number, type of vehicle (two-wheeler, three-wheeler or four-wheeler), model number, colour of the vehicle, date and time of offence and place. After filling in all these details in the FTVR booklet they are then fed into a computer to tally it with the RTO records. Once the records match, a notice is generated and sent to the vehicle owner. "Roughly one lakh FTVRs are produced in a year out of which there are chances of one or two per cent for human error." claims Sood.
Though Sood dismisses any chance of error in sending out traffic violation notices, traffic constables on the signals say that while noting down vehicle numbers amidst traffic, there is a possibility of making mistakes. However, they also agree that because of the tally system there is very less chance of issuing wrong notices.
The other side
As far as complaints are concerned, traffic constables have a different story. R Ramesh, who is often on the road duty, says that the moment he catches anyone for violating traffic rules he (like his fellow constables on road) has to tolerate a 20 minute argument with the violators followed by a 10 minute explanation and warning, only then he says he charges a fine. "Meanwhile we also have to keep track of the ongoing traffic," he adds, which makes them miss out catching other offenders.
Ramesh’s colleagues go through similar experiences. They agree that some of them have spoiled the image of their department by taking bribes. The constables say most of them are sincere workers but do not get any respect from the public. "People argue and fight when we catch them for jumping a signal or if we ask them not to stop on the zebra crossing when it is a red signal," says Hanumanthaiah, a traffic constable.
Meanwhile Sood also confesses, "We are not catching even 10 per cent of the actual traffic violators. The total number of violators is much more than what we are able to catch and fine.
However, Sood explains that he also receives genuine complaints. He says sometimes people who have sold their vehicles keep receiving notices, since they have not informed the RTO about the change in ownership. Sometimes people don’t even know who actually owns their vehicle is as they might have sold it through a broker. While the vehicle changes many hands and the original owner is clueless about it, he/she keeps getting notices because the ownership is not changed in the RTO records.
"We specifically push the owners in such cases to inform the RTO immediately because if the vehicle is involved in any criminal activity or terrorists use it, then the person held will be the original owner as the vehicle still remains in his name," explains Sood. He explains that another kind of genuine complaint is when people change their residential address. The current resident keeps receiving notices since the previous owner did not inform the RTO.