Shimla, Dec. 7: No money for petrol' No problem, if you are police ' impounded vehicles can serve the purpose.
Himachal Pradesh police are in the dock for misuse of impounded vehicles.
The matter came to light when a top official of the state police, additional director-general (railway and traffic) Deepak Baghai, was caught travelling in an impounded Toyota Qualis (CH03-F-9010) in Chandigarh on the night of November 30. The vehicle, which belongs to Labh Ram, a Chandigarh-resident, had been impounded on October 11 in Shimla for violating traffic rules. The car is now in the custody of Chandigarh police.
Shimla SP J.R. Thakur said Baghai had asked the DSP, traffic, Ravinder Sharma, to hire a taxi till Chandigarh on that day. But the traffic department, sources said, could not arrange a taxi as the fare offered by the officer was not acceptable to the taxi union.
Sharma said he had asked the munshi of the traffic control room to arrange a taxi for the ADGP. 'I came to know that he had given an impounded vehicle only when the vehicle reached Dharampur,' the DSP, traffic, said.
It was the owner who found out about the misuse. Baghai was having tea at Dharampur (69 km from Shimla), when Labh Ram, who was going to Shimla to get his vehicle released, reached Dharampur and saw his car parked outside a dhaba. He reportedly lodged a protest with the Himachal traffic police as an impounded vehicle cannot be used by anybody.
After being informed, Sharma said he asked the owner to accompany the police officer till Chandigarh and 'then come back to Shimla' for the release of the vehicle. Labh Ram did as he was told but he also informed Chandigarh police. So when the Qualis entered Manimajra (a Chandigarh suburb), it was seized.
The incident, which has been publicised in the media, has put Himachal police in a spot. 'It is a serious matter. Nobody has the authority to either use an impounded vehicle or allow it for use. I have ordered an inquiry to probe the matter,' said DGP A.K. Puri.
The DGP has told department heads to list the last speedometer readings to avoid misuse of impounded vehicles.
Munshi Harikrishan, the Class III employee who allegedly arranged the impounded vehicle for Baghai, has been put under suspension. So far, no action has been taken against the the police official who owns a house in Manimajra and is on leave for five years. Baghai is working with a Mumbai NGO.
The misuse case took a turn after Baghai said he gave Rs 600 to the driver of the vehicle. 'I did not know that the vehicle was impounded, nor did I conceal my identity or name somebody else,' he added.