The month of September this year saw the implementation of the amended Motor Vehicle Act. The amendments made in the act are chiefly in the form of heavier fines and stricter enforcement norms. Traffic cops have been especially strict since the amended act came into play and there have been various cases across the country where people have been issued challans worth more than the value of their vehicles. In between all this, there have been several reports which cite harassment of civilians by cops in the name of checking documents.
Recently, a Noida man died of a heart attack after he was stopped by a traffic cop, who allegedly behaved rudely. In the wake of such stifling issues, the Uttar Pradesh traffic department on Thursday issued an order asking police officers to not stop vehicles just for the sake of checking documents.
A recent report by TOI states that the order has been issued by Uttar Pradesh traffic directorate to all SSPs and SPs of the state. The order asks them to ensure that only those violating traffic rules and those driving without helmets or seat belts be stopped. According to the report, the order states:
Vehicles should not be stopped merely for checking of documents. Only those vehicles that are prima facie violating traffic rules and those driving without helmets, seat belts, etc be stopped. Documents of such vehicles can be checked.
The amended MV Act has increased the fines on various traffic penalties by a factor of ten. This has been done in order to maintain discipline among the road users, something which has been amiss across most parts of the country since always. However, the reports of cops harassing the general public in the name of checking is also something that can’t be seen in a good light. The TOI report states that according to SP (traffic) Anil Jha, stopping vehicles just to check documents is not necessary. He further added:
Registration, insurance and driving license details of any vehicle can be easily checked on the VAHAN server with just the number of the vehicle. As noted in the order, there were complaints about some people being harassed over the checking of papers. The primary motive here is to stop violators. A fresh round of briefing will be done with head constables, head constables (promotee) and traffic sub-inspectors, sensitizing them about the fresh directions.
Recently, Uttarakhand DG Ashok Kumar also sent clear directions down to the state cops about the same. He instructed the cops not to haress the commuters just for the sake of checking documents. A similar instruction was passed by Manoj Yadav, state police chief, Haryana. Yadav said that the Haryana police will not stop motorists for getting their documents checked if they do not “visibly” break any traffic rules, however, vehicle registration would still be checked for prevention of crime. Way back in 2017, officials of the Mumbai Traffic Police had been given orders by their higher authorities to stop checking for documents if a vehicle has visibly not violated any rules.
Legally, the cops have the authority to stop any vehicle and ask for relevant documents to be produced on the spot. However, using this power excessively is a clear abuse of power and the UP traffic directorate has taken a commendable step to curb this practice. Under usual conditions, a road user should be stopped if he is found committing a traffic offence such has not wearing seatbelt/helmet, overspeeding, jumping the lights or driving rashly among others.