With only two days to go for the trial implementation of the plan to ration Delhi's road space to curb pollution, Delhi's top cop has warned the volunteers of the ruling Aam Aadmi Party against taking the law into their own hands to enforce the odd-even rule.
"We will not allow any unlawful activities. No private citizens will be allowed to infringe on the laws by telling people (violating the law) to stop or go home," Police Commissioner B S Bassi told NDTV in an interview. He also maintained that the policy would have been better implemented with the hep of the Delhi police, had there been no exemptions.
Women drivers, CNG-certified vehicles, two-wheelers and those carrying the differently-abled are among the 25 categories which will be exempted from the scheme. All private cars, barring taxis and auto-rickshaws, with registration numbers ending with an odd figure (1, 3, 5, 7 or 9) will be allowed on the roads only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays were marked for vehicles with even number plates (2, 4, 6, 8 or 0). Sundays are exempt from this rule.
"The scheme has been rolled out in a hurry and as time has progressed, changes have been made to the original plan. When the original plan was announced, at that point of time nobody thought that there would be so many exemptions," Bassi said.
He further said, "There are certain exemptions which are totally ambiguous. For medical emergencies, the scheme doesn't specify any document to be produced and the exemption would entirely be based on trust. So the exemption may be misused by many."
"The scheme should have been introduced in the interest of environment protection without any exemptions," Bassi told reporters.
Delhi Police has received a notification regarding the odd-even policy, following which the commissioner held a meeting with senior traffic officials and initiated an action plan. Bassi also said that he has sent a list of suggestions to the Chief Secretary of Delhi Government on the matter.
On being asked about a proposed trial-run of the scheme on Wednesday, he said that he is unaware of any such proposal but agreed to cooperate if it turns out to be true.
"If they (AAP government) are going to have any rehearsal, we shall be participating in it...We have the capacity to respond in emergency situations. So even if we are informed in the last moment, we have the capacity to react," Bassi said.
Bassi said that volunteers can contribute to the implementation of the scheme only after they report to office of the DCP (traffic) of the concerned zone.
He said there is no confusion as far as transport department officials and traffic officials are concerned but no volunteer has the right to stop anybody on the street unless that person is endangering human safety or property.
"Only when the concerned party volunteers or civic volunteers report, we can educate them and use their efforts in building up capacity. Volunteers can be used in making people aware of the scheme at parking lots or traffic intersections.
Volunteers cannot stop people just anywhere and ask them to go back home, which would result in violation of provisions of the India Penal Code.
"However, the volunteers cannot stop people just anywhere and ask them to go back home, which would result in violation of provisions of the India Penal Code," said Bassi, adding, if any private individual is found indulging in any act which constitutes a criminal offence, they would take action.
Bassi also told reporters that in the action plan, they have planned to spend the next few days in educating people.
Citing unspecified media reports, Bassi claimed to have learnt about volunteers, especially members of some resident welfare associations, who plan to stop people driving in violation of the policy and send them back home. He termed it as an "unlawful" step. "If volunteers do so on their own, it would be unlawful.
In a meeting last evening, chaired by Delhi Transport Minister Gopal Rai, Special Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Muktesh Chander was entrusted with communicating all concerns, including matter related to the involvement of volunteers, to the AAP government for one more time, Bassi said.
On being asked about the issue of inclusion in connection with the scheme, Bassi said that the police was not a part of the scheme of things when they were conceived, but later they were roped in. Bassi further said the action plan for the scheme has been charted out keeping in mind that safety is of paramount importance.
REPLY TO A QUERY:
Not aware of any rehearsal plan of odd even on 30th December 2015.— BS Bassi (@BhimBassi) December 28, 2015
DP to assist odd even to protect environment. Volunteers not to act on their own. Even stopping or asking someone to return is an IPC crime.— BS Bassi (@BhimBassi) December 28, 2015
"I may have special teams which will conduct checks at certain locations and a separate team for noting down numbers of the ones travelling in violation of the orders.
"I am only concerned about one thing: When we are enforcing the plan, the law of the land should not be infringed," said Bassi.
"I am the key player in this plan. I am the person who is going to enforce it. And I will not do anything which either impacts (adversely) road safety or the efforts to protect the environment," he added.
The odd-even scheme, set to roll out from January 1 for 15 days, has been proposed to curb pollution in the national capital by restricting movement of private vehicles based on their registration numbers. Violators of the scheme would attract a penalty of Rs 2,000.
Why is caution & police oversight required? Because an enthusiastic lay man may go overboard breaching others' freedom. An avoidable option.— BS Bassi (@BhimBassi) December 27, 2015
Once volunteers report to DP, they shall be briefed and deployed as per an action plan. No undue harassment of road users is the objective.— BS Bassi (@BhimBassi) December 27, 2015
Bassi told reporters that the traffic department has asked Delhi Government about clarification on a number of exemptions, of which one happens to be related to women.
"What do we do if a woman, who doesn't know how to drive, is travelling with a driver? Do we ask the driver to leave his seat, eventually leaving the woman stranded? This is one issue on which we would like to take up with the government and ask if an amendment in the scheme is possible," Bassi said.
Bassi also made it clear that those who want to render their services for implementation of the odd-even scheme must come to concerned DCP (traffic) offices by 12 noon tomorrow, so that they can be guided in the process.
However, he maintained that any act of stopping an individual from driving, committed by anyone other than a police official or member of an enforcement team of the traffic department, will be treated as wrongful restraint, which is a cognizable offence under the Indian Penal Code.
Bassi claimed that his department has adequate staff for the scheme and he shall be aggressive about its implementation.
"We are going to be aggressive in implementation of the scheme and education is the key feature of traffic management (required in the exercise)," he said. The police chief said that the department is likely to come up with advertisements in the next couple of days to ensure that people are well aware of the guidelines related to the scheme.
Bassi, however, wondered whether officials can also impound vehicles in certain circumstances and said that that too is one of the points to be discussed.
"But I will make things difficult for a person who violates the scheme (once implemented)... By regulation in this regard, I mean I will take certain steps which will make it difficult for a person who is seen violating the norms," Bassi added. (With inputs from PTI)
Also see on HuffPost: