It was 1st April 2014, when sudden BEST Bus Flash strike for protesting against long duty hours had caught many by surprise & many passengers were left stranded waiting for the BEST buses to ply. I am staying at Mulund west and was driving to office at Goregaon via JVLR when I thankfully noticed this on radio. Then I saw hundreds of passengers stranded at BEST Bus Stops. I felt pity for them & offered some of them lift on the way to office at IIT Main Gate Bus Stop. My car got full at that very stop. They were thankful & were ready to pay some bucks but I resisted saying that I had just offered them lift & won't take any money. They were all very happy. It gave immense happiness even to me to help people this way.
Monsoons were gone. But, that little incidence still gave me lot of courage to help people this way. Also, I didn't felt good to take the car empty. Car pooling always came to mind but managing time with co-travelers was difficult. So, I started calling out people on the way to office (Goregaon East near Bimbisar Nagar) if they wanted to share the ride in the morning & to my way back to home (Mulund West near Vidyaben Gardi School) in the evening. People taking the lift were very happy when they heard that they need not pay. Some people still forced me to take at-least some money but I never took any money from anyone. More than the money, the blessings I received from them were priceless. I made many new friends on the way & some of them used to repetitively take the lift coincidentally.
I continued doing this till 3rd November 2015 when like daily I was calling out people if they wanted to share the ride. My neighbor (Nikita Dantara) was accompanying me. 3 persons had joined me but 2 were already off their destination when I reached Shivaji Nagar BEST Bus Stop. At that stop, 2 more persons joined me. Suddenly, as soon as I started driving the car, one of them asked me to stop the car at next (Milind Nagar) BEST Bus Stop. As soon as I stopped, he asked me for the Driving license. Immediately after stopping another person from outside also asked for my (Driving) licence. Soon I came to know that they were from BEST & were part of team conducting surprise raid. But, since I was not doing anything wrong I gave them my (Driving) licence & they handed the same (Driving Licence) to RTO Officer which was seated in a BEST vehicle. Soon, he started preparing the Challan. I asked him for what he was making the Challan. RTO Officer & BEST officers told me that it was illegal to carry passengers like this in a private vehicle & is a punishable offence. I explained them that I was not taking any money from anyone & I even had witnesses waiting in the car who had already witnessed me dropping 2 people without taking any money. But, the RTO officer continued making the Challan & told me that BEST is complaining RTO about many unauthorized vehicles plying on the route & offering passengers pick-up & drop facility for some small amounts of money. I told them that I can understand that offering such service for some money may be illegal but I was not taking any money. But, he didn't listen & went on preparing the Challan. Just for my knowledge, I also asked them if this was illegal how did some Car-pooling Apps like Blabla Car are operating. They stuck to their point that it is all illegal.
The RTO Officer had applied charges under Section 66(i) 192A of Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.
According to Challan, I had to visit Andheri East Magistrate Court on 17th November 2015 for hearing on the above matter. Before that I was asked to meet Mr. Deshmukh which seats in Room No. 4 in the Court premises. I explained him that I had read the clause & nowhere was it written that carrying passengers for free in Private Car was a punishable offence. I explained him that I had got evidence from one of the witnesses. He told that I can argue in the court but Court will give me next date where in I would have to present the witness. He explained me that BEST officers had caught me red handed & I won't be able to prove otherwise. So, I told him that I am ready to pay the fine if it is a punishable offence but will like to present the evidence from one of the witnesses. So he asked his colleague to fill in the form for the hearing in the court for the matter. I had also explained him the case. But, sadly he mentioned on the form that "I was guilty" in Marathi before asking me to sign the form. My only mistake was that I didn't read what he had written before signing the form. But, soon I realized my mistake & asked the officer that I wanted to talk to the judge on the matter. He told that he has to write like this only. I can still talk to the Judge.
When I was called for the hearing, judge announced a fine of Rs. 2,000/- straight away. I requested her that I wanted to say something & asked her if it is a punishable offence even if I was carrying passengers for free in my private vehicle. She counter-argued that I had already accepted that I was guilty in the case. I explained her that the form was filled by their officers & I had already told them that I wanted to talk with Judge in the matter heard. But she again counter-argued that did I sign the form without reading it? I was speechless. She scolded a RTO Officer (who was standing besides me in the Court while hearing) for understanding the matter properly before presenting the same to the Court & not waste precious time of the Court. And finally I was asked to wait outside the Court.
Mr. Deshmukh, the officer who filled in form on my behalf & the RTO Officer who was standing besides me in the Court were all there. I again reminded them that I already had explained them the matter & wanted to speak to the Judge for the matter. But, the Judge didn't listen at all since they had written that I was guilty in the case. And the officers had themselves told me that I can speak on the matter with the Judge. But, they all tried to console myself. Later they explained that final punishment was Rs. 2,000/- fine & 2 months licence suspension. I asked them that Judge had only announced Rs. 2,000/- fine. Did she add my punishment for arguing? They explained me that she did that before I started arguing.
At the end, I asked Mr. Deshmukh if I would be able to drive back my car back to home which I had drove till Court for at-least a day? He explained me that though it is illegal, I should carry a copy of the licence & if someone catches me I should tell them that I have forgotten the licence at home & can drive the car safely even in the period of my licence suspension!!!
I am sad. Not because I had to pay Rs. 2,000/- fine & bear licence suspension for 2 months. But because I was trapped for a wrong case. That too while doing something good.
If the law is framed in such a way that one can not do good work (charity), I feel that the law should be changed to allow someone doing good if there are witnesses to prove the same.
Registration No. on Centralized Public Grievance Redress and Monitoring System (CPGRAMS) is PMOPG/E/2015/0166179 which was forwarded to Government of Maharashtra, Officer name: Shri. P.S. Meena, Officer Designation: Addl Chief Secretary
Registration No. on President's Secretariat Helpline is PRSEC/E/2015/11705 and is currently under examination.
Registration No. on Grievance Redressal Portal, Maharashtra is Dept/L&JD/2015/380 which has advised me to appeal against the Court Order.
Link to my Facebook post which has some Witness Comments is https://www.facebook.com/sanket.savla/posts/1090711760953126