Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Gauhati High Court directs Chief Secretary of Mizoram to constitute a committee on Traffic management

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The Gauhati High Court directed the Chief Secretary to the Government of Mizoram to constitute a Committee on Traffic Management to be headed by the Chief Secretary to the Government of Mizoram, which should also include the DGP, Mizoram Police, who shall have periodical sittings, preferably once in every 2 (two) months, with regard to steps to be taken to decongest traffic within Aizawl city and implementation of the same.

The Aizawl Division Bench of Justice Michael Zothankhuma and Justice Marli Vankung further directed that the Committee should also keep in view the fact that the Transport Department has apparently made guidelines to ensure that vehicle owners should have Garage/s for their vehicles/s. It is further directed that they should also see whether the rules/guidelines/regulations etc being applied for providing parking space for vehicles various institutions, offices, residential buildings, schools, hospitals, business premises is sufficient and/or whether a new rules/guidelines/regulation is required and also ensure that the views of the Traffic Police is taken before any area is declared a parking area by the AMC or any other authority/department.

The Court heard a Suo Moto PIL pertains to the running of Multi-Speciality Hospital along the Chanmari to Chaltlang road. The said hospital does not have any parking space available for four wheeler vehicles.

The affidavit of the Senior SP, Traffic, Aizawl is to the effect that spot verification had been made as to whether the running of the hospital would affect traffic flow in the area and it was found that if adequate parking space was not provided inside the building, it would create traffic jams along the road. The affidavit of the Senior SP, Traffic, Aizawl also states that if no parking space was provided for four wheel vehicles inside the building, patients would have to alight or get into vehicles on the main road, which would greatly affect the flow of traffic creating traffic jams at regular intervals in Chanmari area in particular and Aizawl city in general. The affidavit also states that the alighting of patients from vehicles or getting into vehicles on the main road cannot be recommended, considering the safety of patients, pedestrians and other road users as a whole. Further, the width of Chanmari to Chaltlang road near the hospital is narrow, i.e. 22 ft. only and as such, parking of two wheelers along the road, let alone four wheeler would greatly hamper smooth traffic flow.

The very fact that the hospital is located at the side of the main road, which is the main arterial road in Aizawl, without any parking space for four wheel vehicles, is clear as daylight. The dropping and alighting of persons from/into vehicles, whether they be doctors, patients, staffs or visitors, would require the vehicles to stop on the road, which in turn would stop traffic. The road in particular is very narrow with one lane of vehicles going in either direction. Two vehicles cannot move side by side in one direction on the said road , the Bench noted.

It is observed by the Court that the issue of providing parking space for four wheel vehicles cannot be confined only to the present hospital, but also to other hospitals in Aizawl city. In fact, the provision for providing parking space for four wheel vehicles and two wheelers has to cover various buildings used for schools, offices, residential buildings, educational institutions, commercial establishments etc. However, there does not appear to be any Authority, which has both the power and the teeth to enforce guidelines/rules to ensure that parking space is made available in different buildings, to ensure that the citizens of the State have an easier time maneuvering through the various streets of the city. Though the Government of Mizoram had, vide Notification dated 09.04.2014, constituted a Co-ordination Committee on Traffic Management to take appropriate steps for improvement in Aizawl city, there appears to be no authority enforcing and ensuring that parking space is made available inside the area/buildings of various Institutions, hospitals, residential areas etc. 4 wheel Vehicles and two wheelers are parked at random all along the streets, thereby causing great inconvenience to motorist and two wheelers, who have to commute daily within Aizawl city .

It is stated at the bar that a separate traffic unit with the Superintendent of Police, Traffic had been created by the Government for control, regulation and management of traffic within Aizawl city vide Notification dated 23.07.2007. The SP, Traffic Aizawl had been authorized by the Government of Mizoram, vide Notification dated 22.08.2008, to exercise the powers under Sections 112, 115, 116, 117 & 201 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 within Aizawl city. The aforesaid Sections of the MV Act, 1988 including the power over parking places, halting stations and imposing penalty for causing obstruction to free flow of traffic, besides other powers can be exercised by the Traffic Police.

The Aizawl Municipal Corporation (Control of Parking & Collection of Parking Fees) Regulations had brought about some conflict, confusion and over lapping in the actual exercise of power by both the Traffic and the AMC. Regulation 8(i) of the AMC (Control of Parking & Collection of Parking Fees) (Amendment) Regulations, 2020 provides for notification of parking areas.

Further the Bench noted that the various parking areas manned by persons appointed by the AMC, the narrow roads have become narrower and it is sometimes impossible for two cars to cross each other. This is apparently due to the fact that the AMC appears to be more interested in generating revenue, without giving much importance to the free flow of vehicular traffic in the various streets of Aizawl. The AMC does not appear to have any power with regard to traffic movement/flow in Aizawl and it is only the traffic police who appear to be the Enforcing Agency under the MV Act, 1988, the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989, The Motor Vehicles (Driving Regulations), 2017 and the Mizoram Motor Vehicles Rules, 1995.

It is submitted by the counsel for the AMC that the AMC has no Enforcing Agency of its own and as such, they are slightly handicapped even with enforcing their own regulations and rules. It also appears to the Court that the Mizoram (Regulation & Control of Vehicles Parking)(Amendment) Rules, 2018 has apparently been cancelled. It is also stated at the Bar that as per the Government of Mizoram (Allocation of Business) Rules, 2019, Traffic Management has been allotted to the Home Department. As control of parking regulation is an integral part of effective control and traffic management, it may be best if the said duty is placed under the control of the SP, Traffic, Aizawl.

In view of the above, the Additional Advocate General is directed by the Court to obtain instructions from the Secretary to the Government of Mizoram, UD&PA Department as to who is in charge of control of parking regulations in Aizawl city as on date.

“Though the Co-ordination Committee on Traffic Management still appears to be in existence in paper, nothing seems to be known as to what role they have undertaken presently, to solve the problem of traffic congestion and parking of vehicles in buildings, which have no free compound/area.”

Accordingly, the Court is of the view that a temporary arrangement should be made to look into this issue, till the State Govt. comes with a regular plans/course to be undertaken by them, including reactivating the earlier Committee. In the interim, it is accordingly directed that the State Government should constitute a Committee on Traffic Management, with Secretaries or their representatives from the following departments and bodies, as follows:-

“1. Home

  1. Police
  2. Transport
  3. PWD (Building)
  4. LAD
  5. Land Revenue and Settlement
  6. UD&PA
  7. Commerce and Industries
  8. Information and Public relations
  9. AMC 11. Pollution Control Board.” A report on the constitution of the Committee on Traffic Management and a copy of the meeting minutes, if any, should be submitted to this Court on or before 18.04.2023 . The Committee on Traffic Management should give a tentative report as to what should be the rules, regulations or guidelines for easy movement of traffic and the number of parking space to be provided within hospital buildings and/or compound of the hospital building and other institutions, depending upon the size and area of the buildings/compounds, by the next date , the Court directed.

Further the Court directed that AMC (Aizawl Municipal Corporation)shall file additional affidavit stating as to whether the building plans of a residential building and a hospital building are the same. The requirements and differences between a hospital building and a residential building should also be clarified by the AMC.

Matter is listed next on 18.04.2023 for further hearing.

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