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G O Suresh | January 10, 2003 16:50 IST
Here is the big question to all who drive: what should be your course of action when the traffic police stop you?
The best way is to never let them get you, of course. But what if the goddess of luck had other plans and you find yourself suddenly trapped in the company of dusty uniforms and wild red eyes? And that too with insufficient documentary evidence to legally substantiate your relationship with your vehicle, its friendliness to the environment and such?
If you ask me, you better bribe. Easier that than trying to be a model citizen. Else, you will... Well, read on.
The day -- rather, night -- I got stopped was eventful. At least, I thought so until the next day turned out to be even more eventful.
I was stopped on my way home from a longer-than-usual working day, at around 10 pm. First came the alcohol test. A simple procedure that can be defined as a manual, luck-dependant human oral exhaust analysis for calibrating the alcohol content in your bloodstream -- in simpler words, smelling your mouth. A case where an accidental visit to your local dentist might land you in serious trouble.
Well. I passed it.
Next, he asked for my driving license, RC book and insurance papers, in that order. All in place. I began to relax. My friend even started smiling.
Then came the big question. "Where's the emission certificate?"
The jubilant policeman presented us to a grave-looking officer half-sitting on his motorcycle, looking some papers over, and briefed him in the local tongue.
A couple of exchanges later, the officer told me the fine for the offence is Rs 600. I did not believe him. That was my first mistake.
"Pay Rs 250 fine now," he said.
My blood boiled. He was asking for a bribe!
"I am not going to pay you a single paisa," I said. "I will pay it in the court if I'm supposed to pay a fine." My second mistake.
The officer's face did not change. He was as calm as a statue of Buddha fitted with red eyes and thick moustache.
"As you wish," he said.
He exchanged my driver's licence for a small piece of paper with many columns into which he had filled details of me and my crime.
"Go to the traffic court tomorrow, pay the fine, and get your licence back," he said.
Next day, for the first time in my life I forced my steps into the city court complex. Terra incognita for an ordinary mortal like me!
The traffic court was in one corner. I was greeted by a bunch of bats with files and papers in their hands. They tried to out-squeak each other:
"Good morning, Sir, traffic offence? I can settle it for you."
"Sir, here, Sir. Can I help you?"
"Hello Sir, what's the problem? I can help."
They are also called advocates, my commonsense told me. I thanked them before escaping. But there was no escape; they were everywhere.
Soon I found a young guy near my age with a smiling face. He said he was from Kerala. Happy to find someone from my part of the world, I went over to meet his curly-haired boss.
They had a solution for me. Rs 1,200. Rs 1,000 for the fine, Rs 200 as their fee.
"This is a minor case," they said, "and you don't need to stay in court. More than that, you will also get an emission certificate."
I wasn't satisfied. I decided to do it the proper way, like a good citizen -- wait my turn and pay the fine.
I waited for a long time till a lady judge with a very unkind face appeared and the court rose to its feet. Then I waited until lunch-break.
After lunch, I waited some more before I got wise, thanks to an old gentleman sitting next to me. He explained how the game was played. And I went straight into the records room and located the policeman from 'my' police station.
"Have you submitted my case to the court?" I asked him.
He hadn't, of course.
"Fine, I told him. "Now I'm going to stand up in the court and tell the judge you are intentionally delaying the case."
His attitude changed instantly. He assured me he would submit the documents immediately. I returned to my seat and waited till the end of the day.
After a full day in court, the wisdom I had misplaced when the policeman stopped me returned with full force. My craving to become a good citizen evaporated. I became a true Indian.
That evening, accompanied by my friend, I visited many traffic police stations till I found 'my' inspector. I expected him to be angry. But again, he was calm.
"I had told you, no?" he said.
I smiled a very sorry smile. But he said he couldn't help me. Not anymore. Apparently, the policeman had submitted my documents in the court since I had threatened him. My mistake number 'n'.
To cut a long story short, I met the same policeman in the court next morning. He arranged a lawyer for me, I paid him the money he demanded, and got to office by evening.
The very next day I did an emission test for my vehicle. Turned out it was unfriendly to the environment only by 0.8 per cent, much, much below the limit.
I have got my driver's licence back. And I have stopped trying to be a model citizen.
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