Traffic Police delegating law enforcement to public..Is it legal?

Some time back, Bangalore Traffic Police introduced a mobile app “Public Eye” inviting members of public to send pictures of traffic violation based on which the department will issue notices. Now a similar APP has been released in Delhi. Probably this will be taken up by traffic police in other cities also since it makes their work easy. Police can sit back and keep issuing notices without themselves doing any due diligence.

Recently, I pointed out to the Police an erroneous Challan issued by them based on evidence which was questionable. The challan was issued based on a photograph which showed a vehicle in front of the zebra crossing. What the notice ignored was that the traffic light at the time was in green and there were several vehicles in front of the charge vehicle. Evidence pointed to the fact that the bunch of vehicles was moving after the light had turned green and since it was a bumber to bumber traffic, the owner of the two wheeler which was charged, had one leg touching the ground. Interpreting this as “Parking in front of the Zebra Crossing” was an error and hence the challan was disputable.

However, when a complaint was sought to be sent, it was clear that was no clear grievance redressal mechanism associated with this Public Eye Complaint system. Once a complaint is filed by a member of the public, his identity is not made known but the photo is taken as an “Evidence” and a charge is made on another member of the public. The “Evidence” itself is not authenticated by any digital signature and in the absence of the identity of the person filing the complaint, the accused is completely in the dark of why and how he is being pronounced guilty.

I have also come across occasions when challans are issued with the note “Photographic evidence not available”.

This is grossly unfair and legally questionable.

In such cases the citizen who is charged does not have any option to raise his objection and the issue of the challan becomes arbitrary. If the challan remains is unpaid, one does not know what consequences can follow when another offence is registered. Hence there is a perceived threat and coercion inherent in  the process. There is also a public perception that in order to increase traffic fine collection, Police may book false cases and send Challans since most people tend to pay up without demur. If some body starts clicking photographs near a traffic junction each time the traffic light turns red or green, one can find border cases of violation which in actual practice was not actually a violation. Hence Police can easily use this as a tool to increase the fine collection without any obligation to be either truthful nor instilling a sense of discipline.

Further this will encourage people to keep clicking photographs in public ostensibly for Public Eye but use it for private extortion or misuse. In such cases, there should be legal remedy to the victim to take action against the misuse. At present the system does not have these safeguards.

While the intention of the system to check on major traffic violations is acceptable, using it for minor offences without proper evidence is irritating and constitutes a harassment of the honest public.

Also, issuing of a Challan entirely based on a photo submitted by a Non Law Enforcement Member of the public does not seem to carry legal sanction. Though the system suggests that the photo would be reviewed by the Police, there is no evidence of the same.

Soon we will have photo- shopped evidences presented to either genuinely harass a person or rag a person for fun.

In order to render the scheme more acceptable, it is necessary to have a robust grievance redressal mechanism to support such complaints. I therefore suggest the following mechanism.

  1. On receipt of the complaint, the complaint  should be serially numbered against the identity of the complainant and forwarded to an “Inspector” who has the authority for issuing challans if need be. 
  2. The Inspector should examine the evidence and record his recommendation for issuing of a challan under a digitally signed note which should include a certificate that “He has examined the evidence and found it sufficient to issue the challan for the offence as noted”.
  3. The recipient of the notice should be given only a “Show Cause” notice and not an automatic challan. 
  4. On receipt of the reply if found unacceptable or failure to reply within a reasonable time, the notice can be converted into a Challan again with the due recommendation of the “Inspector”.
  5. The process has to be recorded in the form of a log record.
  6. An option should be provided in the Challan indicating what judicial option is available to the recipient of the Challan to dispute the charge along with an option to pay the fine without raising a dispute.
  7. The ticket can be closed and archived with the log record after the payment is received or the process is brought to a culmination either by the Challan being reviewed and cancelled or by the Traffic Court disposing off the objection.

I suppose the Bangalore Traffic Police as well as the Delhi Traffic Police and others who may introduce similar system also adopt such procedures.


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About Vijayashankar Na

Naavi is a veteran Cyber Law specialist in India and is presently working from Bangalore as an Information Assurance Consultant. Pioneered concepts such as ITA 2008 compliance, Naavi is also the founder of Cyber Law College, a virtual Cyber Law Education institution. He now has been focusing on the projects such as Secure Digital India and Cyber Insurance
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2 Responses to Traffic Police delegating law enforcement to public..Is it legal?

  1. Kapaleeswaran says:

    Well thought out and written article. If the complaint does not give enough opportunities for the accused to explain his part of the story, will the whole process stand in a court of law, if challenged on these grounds?

  2. This practice of outsourcing of jobs to be done by the police department is largely due to the fact that our Law Enforcement is ill- equipped to do their jobs efficiently due to lack of manpower, commitment, and latest tools. This has been happening in Kerala too. Sending a notice under such practice has no legal sanctity, is illegal, arbitrary and not in accordance of law.The poor litigant would rather pay up than to waste precious time, effort, and resources in a protracted legal battle in our system. The cops get their quota, the poor man save time, money etc. A win-win situation for all stakeholders.

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