SUBHAJOY ROY , TT, Feb. 15:Drink driving, speeding and using a phone while at the wheel could lead to your licence being suspended for three months or more under a stricter penalty regime that takes effect in Calcutta in a few weeks.
Jumping a red light and carrying excess passengers in goods vehicles are among the other offences that might invite similar prosecution and punishment.
Barring a couple of exceptions, all these offences currently do not have any deterrent other than a piffling fine of Rs 100. In cases of drink driving, traffic officers usually take the offender to a police station for the formality of arrest and bail.
Goods vehicles carrying excess load are fined Rs 3,000 for every offence.
Only in a small percentage of these instances do sergeants seize driving licences and refer the cases to the deputy commissioner of police (traffic). The onus is on the deputy commissioner to suspend a licence, based on a hearing of the case.
Police sources said this was likely to happen only if a violation of road rules triggered an accident, causing death or serious injury.
From later this month, traffic sergeants would be encouraged to seize licences rather than settle cases by slapping a fine against a challan. They would need to forward such cases to an officer of the rank of assistant commissioner.
But not everyone caught speeding, using a phone while driving or jumping a red light would be liable for a licence seizure and suspension. The sergeant on duty would need to use his discretion to decide whether the licence should be seized or the offender can be let off with a fine, as is the practice now.
"The sergeant would seize a driving licence depending on the possible consequences of the offence. Our objective is not to harass people; less dangerous offences can be let off with a fine even after stricter penalties come into force," said an officer at Lalbazar, the city police headquarters.
A motorist whose licence is seized would have to appear for a hearing in the office of one of the assistant commissioners vested with the power to bar the person from driving for a period of three months or more.
The sergeant would inform the offender of the time and place of the hearing while seizing the licence.
The Supreme Court Committee on Road Safety recommends suspension of driving licences for various traffic offences and imprisonment for drink driving. These penalties were notified in May 2014, but Bengal is among the states that have yet to enforce them fully.
"The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, provides for the same penalties. Since nobody had been enforcing those, we have recommended the same again," said Nishi Mittal, a member of the committee and former head of the Central Road Research Institute's traffic engineering and safety division.
The decision to implement the recommendations in Calcutta was taken last October but put on hold after demonetisation of high-value currency triggered a shortage of cash.