The chaotic Delhi roads may at last get a semblance of discipline. The Delhi High Court on Monday stepped in to hike traffic fines across the board by Rs 500 and placed a ban on all tinted glasses and parking in the Lutyen's zone.Now none of this is bad. Whether it will achieve the desire result is debatable, and I remain immensely skeptical of the breathless TV anchors who wondered out loud whether Delhi's traffic woes are in the past.
The slew of directions to revamp the traffic system came three months after a Times of India report had drawn the court's attention to the increasing road accidents in the city.,
In a comprehensive order, a bench of Justices Swatanter Kumar and H R Malhotra also laid down strict guidelines for bus drivers and fixed the speed limit for vehicles — 45-50 kmph for light vehicles within the city and 35-40 kmph for heavy vehicles. All directions will come into effect from April 9 this year.
‘‘Immense influx of light and heavy vehicular traffic has made Delhi roads dangerous to human life. Therefore control of traffic in NCR and NCT is a matter of paramount public safety and has been a matter of judicial concern,'' the bench said in its 70-page verdict dealing with each aspect of the traffic system.
Excuse me? Increasing the fines is going to improve things in Delhi? Banning smoking while driving will reduce vehicular accidents? This assumes that there is such as thing as the rule of law in India, that the law will be enforced, and that people actually have some sense of traffic discipline, instead of the free-for-all-don't-give-a-quarter-if-I-stop-it's-as-good-as-being-castrated meleé on the roads. If those irritating talking heads on NDTV actually believe this then I have some neat beach-front property for them in Rajasthan.
There's probably no place which could serve as the text book case for the law of unintended consequences as India. In this case, I fully expect that the chai-pani rates (a term that literally means "tea-water" but is an oblique way of referring to a bribe) of the cops will increase; and now the eager hawaldars have a few dozen more things they can harrass the ordinary citizen with.
And tell me, why on earth does the friggin' High Court have to regulate such mundane matters of policy in the nation's capital? The courts decide the level of fines, and what constitutes road safety? And now that the Court has issued its judgment -- Delhi roads are hazardous -- ("M'lord, you must have finally emerged from your disinterested judicial ivory tower and tried to cross the road at CP") -- we can all breathe a sigh of relief that relief is around the corner, that the DTC buses will drive sanely, that private bus operators will not cram their vehicles to capacity, and, of course, the rickshawallah will actually charge by the meter.
While the executive busies itself with what it does best -- figuring out how to get re-elected, and plundering the coffers of the State (not to mention the aam aadmi) in the process -- the judiciary ("judicial overreach" is obviously not a concept taught in law school here) sets policy and tries to run the country, no matter that the backlogs on cases that require the judiciary to actually, you know, judge, are still decades long.
And of course, with no more black tint, we may even get to see the face of the VVIP whose convoy of white Ambassadors disrupts traffic yet again, and thank the stars that the netaji is out and about looking after the welfare of the people.
Wah! Mera Bharat Mahan!