Parking penalty to scald, not just pinch, say activists

BMC’s proposed ₹10,000 fine for unauthorised parking needs clarity, could backfire, say experts

Will a fine that is 50 times more than the existing one for unauthorised parking deter offenders in the city? The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) seems to think so, but in the absence of a clear plan, not everyone is convinced.

The corporation wants to crack down on those who park on the roadside despite public parking in the vicinity, by penalising them up to ₹10,000 — 50 times the current penalty for such an offence. While the BMC is still working out the details, it has sparked a debate among Mumbaikars about the corporation’s efficiency and capability.

A question of discipline

On June 19, Municipal Commissioner Praveen Pardeshi took the decision, to be implemented from July 7, with a view to give a breather to traffic and pedestrians, instill discipline among private car owners, and bus and truck drivers. The move is aimed at utilising public parking lots that have been constructed for years but are lying vacant, apart from decongesting arterial roads that typically see cars parked on either side, leaving only a single lane for movement.

As part of the decision, the BMC has declared that roads in a 1-km radius of a public parking facility will be declared no-parking zones. These will include arterial roads. Those who park their cars in this region will incur a penalty of up to ₹10,000 and if they refuse to pay the amount, their car may be towed away.

The BMC has 146 pay-and-park facilities in the city that can hold about 30,000 cars and 4,000 motorcycles. The no-parking zone rule will apply around these parking lots and BMC will use Section 314 (encroachment) and 381 (nuisance) of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation (MMC) Act to penalise offenders.

According to these sections, the BMC can levy a fine of up to ₹10,000 on the offender as the car will be considered an encroachment on the road. However, the maximum fine may eventually be reserved for buses and trucks, followed by around ₹6,000-₹7,000 for luxury cars and around ₹1,000 for small cars. The fine will be in the form of an e-challan.

According to the Motor Vehicles Act, only the traffic police can take action against unauthorised parking, and the penalty is ₹200. The traffic police want to write to the State government to amend this Act, allowing them to enforce the ₹10,000 fine.

Mr. Pardeshi said it was a move in the right direction, even though there is a possibility it may be challenged in court. Section 314 of the MMC Act is invoked to penalise unauthorised hawkers ₹10,000. “The same principle is being applied to unauthorised car parking. The penalty is the cost of towing away the vehicle as well as a punitive amount,” he said.

Parking lot contractors

Meanwhile, the BMC will have to appoint contractors for parking lots. Wary of entering into fights with offenders, though, the contractors may need to recruit ex-servicemen for monitoring unauthorised parking. The BMC will provide contractors with towing vans, and the corporation and traffic police will work out a revenue-sharing model.

Until these measures come into force, parking will be free in vacant lots, and may be allowed in BEST bus depots.

Soon after the decision was announced, assistant commissioners, along with traffic policemen, started mapping pay-and-park facilities in their areas. BMC officials have also held two coordination meetings with traffic police.

Mr. Pardeshi is hoping to work out details of the scheme by July 7, failing which, the deadline will get an extension.

‘Fine is too heavy’

These are still first steps, though, and civic officials admit there is not much clarity yet. “What if a person did not know there was a parking lot nearby, or if the parking lot was full? We are afraid the move will have a backlash,” an officer said on condition of anonymity.

Officers and transport activists said the fine was over the top. “This is exploitation and misuse of power. Unauthorised parking should be punishable, but not by so much,” activist Jitendra Gupta said. The authorities do not act against autorickshaws and trucks for fear of their unions, he said, and added, “The idea of public parking under open spaces (as was planned under Patwardhan Park and Jhula Maidan) should be explored again.”

Mr. Gupta said the BMC needs to put up signs guiding motorists about the existence of a parking lot before penalising them.

Samajwadi Party corporator Rais Shaikh on Friday wrote to the Municipal Commissioner about the move. “The problem of unauthorised parking is serious. But this decision was taken without informing group leaders. This dents the image of the corporation among the people,” Mr. Shaikh said.

Not everyone believes the punishment is excessive, though. Transport expert Ashok Datar said the amount is steep, but the measure should have been implemented earlier. “Globally, not only is parking becoming more expensive, but there are also fewer public parking spaces for private cars so as to encourage public transport,” he said.

He suggested the corporation go a step further: “Those who park on turns and footpaths or indulge in double parking should be fined even more.”

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