The Telegraph
Thursday , June 5 , 2014
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Munde death glare on beacon cars 10 VIPs a day flout rules

New Delhi, June 4: Gopinath Munde’s driver may or may not have jumped the signal at Aurobindo Chowk but flouting of traffic rules by VIPs’ vehicles and beacon-fitted cars is not uncommon in the capital, police have said.

According to data available with Delhi traffic police, over 3,600 government vehicles, including those of MPs, MLAs, bureaucrats and senior police officers, were prosecuted last year for jumping signals, not using seat belts and illegal use of beacons.

“It is an irony that Delhi, a city of lawmakers, is also a city of lawbreakers,” a traffic police officer said.

He said drivers of VIP vehicles were more often than not at fault for breaking the rules. “But it also exposes the pathetic inability of the VIPs to rein in errant drivers,” he added.

In his complaint to police after the car crash that led to Munde’s death, the minister’s driver Virendra Kumar claimed that the Indica, which was at high speed, violated the red light at the intersection. But the Indica driver, Gurvinder Singh, claimed the minister’s car was running at 60-70kmph and jumped the signal, leading to the crash.

“A probe is on. If it is established that Munde’s car violated the signal, we will prosecute the vehicle,” another officer said.

Since 2012, the police have been cracking down on illegal use of beacons on a prod from the Union home ministry. That year, 352 vehicles were prosecuted. In 2013, the number fell to 312.

“From 2012, we launched a crackdown on unauthorised use of beacons. Our officers prosecuted 352 vehicles of MPs, MLAs, police officers and bureaucrats for violating the rules,” said an officer.

Last year, a politician’s BMW car was challaned for illegal use of beacon and fined Rs 2,000, he said.

In 2012, the police had prosecuted the car of Sandeep Dikshit, then Congress MP from East Delhi, as his driver was not wearing a seat belt. Police said Dikshit was in the car and had to pay a fine.

In May 2012, MPs from the BSP, Samajwadi Party and the BJP had demanded in the Lok Sabha that that they be allowed to fix beacons on their cars as it would ensure their “right of free movement”. But Sonia Gandhi had then said more beacons would mean more problems.

Another officer said politicians and bureaucrats often browbeat traffic policemen for prosecuting their vehicles.

“They create a scene on the road, threaten traffic police with transfer and call up senior officers to flaunt their connections. Despite this, we have instructed our men to prosecute vehicles flouting rules.”

The fine for illegal use of beacons is Rs 100 but in some cases, the amount can go up to Rs 2,000. The vehicle can also be impounded.

“Blatant misuse of the beacon was once routine on Delhi’s roads. But it has come down drastically,” the officer said.

Under the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989, MPs and MLAs are not authorised to use beacons on vehicles. Nor do beacons imply right of way.

“It’s merely a status symbol for ministers. Cabinet and state ministers are authorised to use beacons on their vehicles. But it does not mean they can violate traffic norms. They can be prosecuted for not adhering to traffic norms,” said a police officer.