Pune traffic cops have pulled out a lesser-known law from the Motor Vehicles Act, and are combining it with the well-known Section 185 — punishment for driving under the influence (DUI) of intoxicants — to punish even co-passengers for “abetting the crime” if they knew the driver was drunk.
Although organisations batting for enforcement of traffic and road safety rules welcome the idea of cracking down on DUI, they are not in favour of punishing co-passengers, or pillion riders of bikes as the case may be, unless culpability is established.
The Pune traffic police are cracking down on traffic rule violators and among those hauled up for offences — DUI, exceeding speed limits, riding bikes without helmets and riding four-wheelers without fastening seat belts, parking in no-parking zones, driving in no-entry zone, halting on zebra crossings, jumping signals, driving without licence, underage drivers, tinted windows and other offences — are co-passengers of drivers or bike riders.
Traffic police argue that they are registering cases against co-passengers if it is apparent that they are aware that the driver had consumed alcohol (more than 30 mg of alcohol in 100 ml blood translates into punishment).
Traffic experts raising the red flag against this are of the view that it is likely that the person might be accompanying the drunk driver reluctantly against his or her wishes.
Traffic police are invoking Section 188 of the MVA to book those who abet DUI.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Sarang Awad said, “According to Section 188 of the Motor Vehicle Act, person or persons accompanying the one driving under influence of alcohol can be booked for abetting the crime. As of now we have made 10 such cases in last three days and we will continue to book such people throughout the city.”
Awad added, “In most cases, the pillion rider, or the persons travelling in the vehicle are aware of the fact the driver or rider is drunk. In many cases, the others too are drunk. We will book the others only when prima facie others are aware that the driver had consumed alcohol. We have started the drive in Koregaon Park and will continue the drive in other parts of the city.”
As per Section 185 of the MVA, if a driver or bike rider is detected with alcohol content exceeding 30 mg per 100 ml of blood, which is tested by the breath analyser, he or she is booked for DUI. Police said the drive will be conducted near bars or hotels where alcoholic beverages are served.
Traffic expert Prashant Inamdar of Pedestrian First said, “There is a grey area in such matters. There may be cases where the driver in spite of opposition from co-passengers drove under the influence of alcohol. So, when police book co-passengers it is important that the culpability of the other person is established. To ensure that, there can guidelines, checks and balances and if these checks are done in presence of senior officers, fairness can be ensured.”