HYDERABAD: The Telangana High Court has directed the State government and transport commissioner to take immediate steps to ensure there is an online mechanism that can help monitor overloading offences committed by transport/goods vehicles and passenger vehicles.
It said such a system should be accessible to the police, transport and other departments. Further, it fixed a time frame for the prosecution of offenders and asked the government to notify the guidelines within the next three months.
Justice P Naveen Rao was passing this order on batch petitions filed by several persons questioning the seizure of their transport vehicles and seek their release on grounds that it violated their right to conduct business as guaranteed by Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India.
The court noted the Rattan Singh vs State Punjab case of 1979, wherein the judge had observed that unless the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and Act 3 of 1984 are implemented properly, many innocent people would die due to no fault of their own.
The petitioners’ counsel had argued against the detention of vehicles as it would lead to wear and tear, loss of fitness and various other issues, including their assets’ security. The government counsel, on the other hand, said that under the guise of interim orders, the owners had gotten their vehicles released by paying a penalty but did not surrender the driving licenses of the offending drivers.
After hearing the case, Justice Naveen Rao noted that the transport authorities had been complacent in taking corrective action after an offence. He said drivers and owners were happy paying a fine when caught and continue to repeat the same offences afterwards. “There appears to be a reluctance on the part of transport authorities to exercise the powers vested in them. They are, in effect, abetting crime with such conduct. Further, there is stoic silence on enforcing Act 3 of 1984”, he said noted.
Referring to the road accident that took place on August 4, 2019 in Mahabubnagar district, the judge noted how 13 agricultural labourers had died while travelling in a auto which was designed to carry just seven people. “Unless there is an increase in percentage of seizure, with more rigorous testing of suitability of the vehicle before releasing it, and deterrent punishments imposed on offending owner/driver, the trend of accidents cannot be reversed and lives of innocents cannot be saved,” he said.
Justice Rao disposed the petitions by issuing various directions. One of them was on the seizure of a vehicle. He said it was for the secretary to the Road Transport Authority to consider an application. “If he agrees to release the vehicle, he can impose appropriate conditions,” he said.
In another directive, he said the proceedings of a transport vehicle seizure should be recorded on video. CCTV footage should be made part of the case record, he noted. One of the major directives, the court said applications could be accepted on an online portal to expedite decision making. Hearings could be conducted through video conference.
“The applicant need not come to the office of secretary/ designated authority. Video conferencing facilities can be established at designated places. The government shall prescribe, within six weeks from date of receipt of judgment to stipulate procedure to file applications for interim custody of the vehicle and time frame to dispose of such applications,” he said.