MOTORISTS IN Maharashtra owe the state exchequer more than Rs 168 crore in unpaid traffic fines. Ever since the state police rolled out an e-challan system in January, latest figures show the bulk of offenders refusing to pay fines live in the state’s top six cities and that almost 65 per cent of fines issued till August remain unpaid.
In July, the Parliament had passed the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill and notified an increase in fines for traffic violations beginning September 1. Maharashtra is yet to notify these rules, and state Transport Minister Diwakar Raote has written to the Centre requesting that the fines be reduced.
But Maharashtra’s record of paying up traffic tickets even under the old regime is not encouraging.
Figures provided by the state Police reveal that 74.7 lakh challans were issued until August 31 in 46 police districts using e-challan machines — hand-held devices on which police personnel enter the license number of offending drivers and chassis number of vehicles into a database. The devices also allow the personnel to click pictures of violations on the spot to minimise chances of motorists contesting the circumstances under which they were issued fines.
However, only 26.7 lakh challans issued during the first eight months of this year, totalling Rs. 76.5 crore in fines, have been deposited with the police.
Half of these unpaid challans belong to motorists in Mumbai, who have a total of Rs 82.13 crore in outstanding payment against 27.31 lakh challans. This figure dwarfs fines of Rs 20.38 crore paid by motorists in Mumbai.
Pune is the second largest offender with motorists yet to pay fines totalling Rs 50.87 crore. Pimpri-Chinchwad (Rs 9.46 crore), Thane city (Rs 7.23 crore) and Navi Mumbai (Rs 5.26 crore) round up the top five cities with maximum unpaid traffic fines. A bulk of the challans in cities have been issued for crossing the speed limit and encroaching on the stop line.
Fines collected until August 31 are under the old Motor Vehicles Act, as the state is yet to amend the Act in line with the Centre. The government has deferred amending the Act until after the impending Assembly elections, said sources.
“We have sent lists of motorists, who have unpaid fines of more than Rs 5,000, to every police commissioner and superintendent and asked them to recover these amounts. This is only the first list. Once higher amounts are recovered, we will send lists of motrists who have smaller amounts of unpaid fines,” said Vijay Patil, SP of Maharashtra State Highway Police.
The police have also set up a 24/7 helpdesk in Mumbai where personnel are tasked with contacting motorists with pending fines. To encourage motorists to pay up, the police have invested in advertising downloads of the Mumbai Traffic Police and Maharshtra Police mobile applications through which challans can be paid online, said Patil.
The e-challan system was first implemented in Mumbai in 2016 and subsequently in Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Nagpur, Navi Mumbai and Thane at the beginning of this year. Throughout 2019, 4,500 e-challan devices were distributed across all districts with Aurangabad-based technology firm Krish Infratrade Pvt Ltd providing training to police personnel in their usage. Gadchiroli was the last district where the system went live on June 7, said Patil.
He added that the system enables senior officers to monitor the progress of every challan issued. “On our central dashbard, we can see how the e-challan machines are being used. They come equipped with the faciity of taking pictures of offences. We have observed that in many instances, police personnel do not collect spot evidence. The system allows us to contact the officer concerned and ask him why he hasn’t collected evidence,” Patil said.
While the personnel on the field have been instructed not to accept fines in cash, such rules have been relaxed in the rural areas with poor connectivity and on highways where recycling drivers breaking traffic rules may not always have debit or credit cards, said the police.