A Kannada TV Channel namely BTV News channel has reported a sting in which the tampering of auto meters has been discussed in great detail. A TV debate has been presented today ( 15th October 2014) where the issue is being discussed.
One of the views expressed by panel members is that legal action should be taken on manufacturers of tamperable meters as well as the mechanics who tamper the meter and the drivers. Panel members are also expressing regret that the law is not stringent enough and even when caught the persons responsible are getting away with fine of Rs 500/- or less.
The news report is showing how chips are being introduced in the digital meters so as to make it run faster than what they should. It is being reported that around 1 lakh meters in Bangalore are susceptible to tampering and not less than 50% of these have already been tampered with. Such autos are estimated to be over charging about Rs 10-15 for each trip. The loot therefore is estimated to be around Rs 20-30 lakhs per day.
The TV debate is also presenting one of the meter manufacturer who claim that his meter is tamper proof but there are other meters in the market which are tamperable and the Government has not shown any inclination to encourage the use of tamper proof meters.
Considering the enormity of the problem, it is necessary to clarify that tampering of digital meters is a Cyber Crime and falls under Section 66 of Information Technology Act 2000/8. It is also an offence under IPC as “Assistance to Cheat”. The punishment under Section 66 is 3 year imprisonment and fine upto Rs 5 lakhs. It is therefore stringent enough to send shivers to drivers.
Hence it is not correct to say that the law is not strong. Perhaps the Police is not interested in applying strong laws. Also the traffic police may not have adequate exposure to cyber laws and hence have never thought of invoking the law.
While the tampering mechanic is directly responsible for causing the electronic system (Digital Meter) to behave in a manner it is not intended to and therefore liable for Section 66, the driver would be also equally liable since he owns the meter and commercially benefits by the tampering.
Unfortunately it may be difficult to make the manufacture of the tamperable meters liable. But the Government may try to encourage tamper proof meter manufacturers and ensure that other meter manufacturers fall in line.
I hope the Police Commissioner in Bangalore will explore how ITA 2000/8 can be applied in all cases of Meter tampering .