Cocking a snook at the High-Security Registration Plates (HSRP) rule, more than seven lakh newly registered vehicles, including the ones used for VVIPs like the chief minister and deputy chief minister, in Maharashtra are plying without HSRPs, according to RTO officials.
The HSRP rule has been in place for more than three and a half years intending to curb theft of vehicles and for standardisation.
When asked about the reason for non-compliance, a senior official cited the absence of a specific rule to take action against a vehicle plying sans HSRP. Hence, they slap a fine of Rs 2,000 for spotting a fancy number plate.
Another official told PTI some dealers of vehicles flout the HSRP rule and hand over new vehicles to customers without fitting these plates on vehicles, which is mandatory.
Of the nearly 69 lakh new vehicles registered in Maharashtra since April 2019, only about 61 lakh vehicles are fitted with HSRPs, popularly called ‘IND’ or INDIA number plates.
“As many as 7.68 lakh new vehicles registered in Maharashtra, including the bulletproof cars used for VVIPs such as the chief minister and the deputy chief minister, interceptor and pilot vehicles of police, and leased buses in the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking’s fleet, among others, are plying without HSRPs,” officials of Regional Transport Offices said.
To curb the theft of vehicles and bring uniformity in their identity marks, the Union government made HSRP mandatory for every newly registered vehicle from April 1, 2019, putting the onus on manufacturers to install these number plates in every new vehicle, before handing them over to the customers.
According to the latest report of the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), Maharashtra saw 27,740 cases of vehicle theft, including 3,282 from Mumbai.
Despite the HSRP rule, many vehicles are still seen sporting fancy number plates, on which numbers are written in cursive fonts, different sizes and languages (like Marathi and English). Notably, some vehicles fit HSRP on the front and fancy number plates on the rear side or visa-versa, officials said.
In more than 61 lakh vehicles, HSRPs are installed using normal screws and nut bolts, instead of the snap lock or rivets, which is a violation of HSRP rules.
“As the HSRPs are installed on the front and rear side of vehicles using normal screws and nut bolts instead of snap lock, after some time they fall off due to potholes on roads or other reasons. As a result of which, some vehicles are seen with missing or hanging HSRPs, defeating the very purpose,” officials pointed out.
A retired RTO official said some vehicle dealers install HSRPs using a plastic or metal case instead of rivets, in violation of rules.
RTO offices and the office of the transport commissioner have turned a blind eye towards the non-use of snap locks for fitment of HSRPs, he alleged.
The HSRP rule mandates that barring two-wheelers, every vehicle should have a chromium-based hologram sticker affixed on the inner side of the vehicle’s windshield specifying details of registration, but in many vehicles, these stickers are missing though they sport HSRPs, officials said.
Made of a rare aluminium alloy, HSRP contains a retro-reflective film with a verification inscription ‘India’, chromium-based Ashok Chakra hologram, the hot-stamped letter “IND” in blue, and a 10-digit laser-branding of a unique serial number, making it tamper-proof.
If fitted using a snap lock, the HSRP will damage if it is tried to be removed forcefully.
In Maharashtra, 8,90,960 lakh vehicles were registered till August in the current financial year.
Maharashtra’s vehicle population is over 4 crore, but the state government has not yet made these number plates mandatory for vehicles registered before March 31, 2019.
“Dealers of vehicle manufacturers install HSRPs to new vehicles before handing them to customers. This is done once the vehicle number is generated after online registration at RTO. Dealers are responsible for procuring and installing HSRPs on vehicles after procuring from the suppliers,” officials said.
They said the transport department has also made it a must for dealers to upload photos and details of HSRPs on the VAHAN portal used nationally for storing data about vehicles, and on the fitment of HSRPs. Until then, the registration certificate of the vehicle is not printed at RTO.
If any vehicle is found without HSRP, the dealers will face suspension of their trade certificates for specific days but despite this rule, some dealers hand over vehicles, especially from the commercial category, to customers without HSRPs, officials said.
“In some cases, they (dealers) send the HSPR kit to customers later and ask them to get it fitted themselves. This is the reason HSRPs on several vehicles were found fitted with screw or nut bolts instead of snap locks,” he added.
A motor vehicle inspector said there is no specific rule for taking action against the vehicle if caught without HSRPs.
He said the transport commissioner’s office has directed all RTOs to suspend the trade certificate of dealers for a specific period for the first, second and third offences for handing over new vehicles to customers without HSRPs.
Maharashtra Transport Department Additional Commissioner J B Patil said RTO officials have been directed to take action in the matter.
“We are conducting a special drive against vehicles without fitness documents. We will ask RTO officers to check vehicles without HSRPs as well,” he added.
Some RTO officials also pointed out that even after more than three years, a majority of vehicles, especially two-wheelers and heavy vehicles, do not come with designated places for installing HSRPs.