Know your rights on the roads
During important national or religious events, law enforcers ‘take over’ the roads, aiming to protect the citizens from anti-social elements. But there are several other instances when innocent motorists are harassed by law enforcers to extort money.
This week The Express Tribune examines the laws that guarantee the rights of motorists and guide them on how to act when faced with a bribe demand from a corrupt official.
What the Constitution says
The Constitution allows every citizen to move freely within the country and to have his life and property protected by law enforcers. Hence, giving or receiving a bribe is a criminal offence.
When preparing to hit the road, be sure that you have a valid ID card, your driving licence and the original registration papers of the vehicle.
The vehicle — be it a two-wheeler or a four-wheeler — must have functional headlights, indicators, horn, brakes and brake lights.
Remember, snap checking can only be carried out by the personnel of the operational police force – dressed in a grey shirt and khaki pants.
Citizens are required to stop whenever signalled to do so by operational police, who are authorised to conduct a search of the motorists and their vehicles to ensure that they are not carrying any unauthorised items such as weapons or explosives.
They may ask for your National Identity Card to prove your citizenship and confirm your identity. A policeman can also ask you for the documents of the vehicle to ensure that it is not stolen. In the case of the above-mentioned documents not being available, the officer may lock you up and impound the vehicle.
If you are in possession of a weapon, it should be licensed and the licence should be placed in its holder. Carrying an unlicensed weapon can lead to a criminal trial and even imprisonment.
A grey-and-khaki uniformed policeman cannot ask you to show your driving licence, and hence cannot impose a fine on you for not having one. If an operational policeman does ask you for it, then you are well within your rights to refuse to do so.
A traffic policeman, dressed completely in white – in most cities – is legally authorised to stop you to check your driving licence, vehicle documents and commercial permit if you are driving a commercial vehicle.
You are duty bound to stop and cooperate with the officials if they want to check your driving licence and registration papers. Driving a vehicle without a driving licence can lead to a fine. However, a traffic policeman can neither impound your vehicle nor arrest you.
If a policeman asks for a bribe, regardless of whether you have the required documents or not, do not comply with his illegal demand. The right course of action is to dial the Madadgar Police Helpline Number 15 to lodge a complaint about the corrupt officer.
Similarly, if a traffic policeman is doing so, then he is also committing an offence and a complaint can be registered, simply by dialling the Traffic Police Helpline 1915.
Consequences of demanding bribes
Visit a nearby police station to lodge your FIR under Section 161 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), which relates to punishment for public servants taking gratifications other than their legal remuneration in return of an official act.
A corrupt officer can be sentenced for up to three years in prison, fined, or both, depending on the ruling of the judge. Many motorists, who are even in possession of valid documents and permits, opt to grease the palm of corrupt cops, which further encourages them to do so.
Legal experts want every single person to come forward and lodge their complaints instead of fulfilling such illegal demands, since taking action against corrupt police is the only way to stop them.
Published in The Express Tribune