On Wednesday morning, Judge D W Deshpande held actor Salman Khan guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder but made a crucial observation — that Khan was under the influence of alcohol when he ran over five men and rammed his Land Cruiser into a Bandra pavement. In the past eight years — the city has seen a calculated drive against drink driving, with the Mumbai traffic police arresting more than 1.2 lakh people for driving under the influence of alcohol and collected more than Rs 26 crore in fines.
In this period, the police claim that they have notched up a high rate of conviction. Under the Motor Vehicle Act, driving under the influence of alcohol attracts a minimum penalty today of Rs 6,000 fine a six month imprisonment, with penalties rising with the amount of alcohol detected in 100 ml of the driver’s blood. While across the country, it is a punishable offence, there is no other city which sees drunk drivers brought to court every weekend.
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According to data available with the traffic police, 1,26,093 cases of driving under the influence of alcohol have been registered across the city between June 20, 2007 and April 9, 2015. There has been a steady rise in these cases, the data shows, since the police began its crackdown.
During this period, 58,232 drivers have been imprisoned and Rs. 13.19 crore in fine have been levied by courts to the drivers. Driving licences of 48,601 drivers have been suspended.
Until April this year, the traffic police registered 4261 cases, in which 1526 people were convicted and a total of Rs. 81 lakh in fines were collected. The maximum accused (1,172) were aged between 26 and 30 years, while 975 drunk drivers were aged between 21 and 25 years. Also, of the 4,261 cases, 2,659 were vehicles with more than four wheels, while 1,407 were four-wheelers.
“We have a high conviction rate. Our breathalysers ensure that drunk drivers do not escape,” said Milind Bharambe, JCP, (Traffic).
Inspector PS Surulkar, who heads the traffic police’s prosecution wing, said the police are able to successfully secure convictions in court also because the arresting officer serves as the chief witness.
“The driver cannot dispute the reading on the breathalyser. And if in court, the driver denies having committed the crime, the officer who checked him on the road is also the eyewitness. There is no long drawn-out trial. Magistrates make a decision to either impose imprisonment or fine or both in one hearing,” he said.
Most drivers, Surulkar added, own up and are let off with a fine. “Magistrates, at times, take a lenient view of people who say they had consumed alcohol at a marriage or birthday parties of their children,” he said.
There are some drivers who ignore summons to appear in court, Surulkar said. “If they do not appear in court after being issued a summons, the court issues a bailable warrant, and in case that doesn’t work, a non-bailable warrant. The driver is sent behind bars for ignoring the summons, in addition to the conviction for drunk driving,” Surulkar said.
32.93%: According to the state government, this is the overall conviction in Maharashtra between January and March 2015 in cases
conducted by regular and special assistant public prosecutors in lower courts.
15,614: Convictions have been handed out since January this year, in the 47,410 cases in which there was either a conviction or an acquittal.