- For example, if one were to carry two bags of cement in the boot of a car, would that be personal luggage?
- Fining those ‘amateurs’ who instruct along major highways is acceptable
- Our legislators should study more up to date examples of the kind before passing draconian laws
Laws need to be reasonable, or people will come to despise them and those who carry them out. The idea is to respect the law, not to fear or despise.
According to a news item, 10 new traffic offences have been added to the current list, making a total of 33 offences which can be fined.
One new offence is carrying goods other than personal luggage in motor cars or private coaches, followed by carriage of persons or passengers in excess.
How does one define personal luggage? No clear definition is available and this will guarantee arbitrary police persecution and high handedness. For example, if one were to carry two bags of cement in the boot of a car, would that be personal luggage? Or if one carried a load of books in the boot, does that amount to an offence? If not, if one carried a friend’s collection of books, surely that too, would not be an offence even if the books belonged to someone else other than the owner of the car.
A car is authorized to carry four people. Sometimes, one sees five adult passengers, or four adults with two or more children. This is because those people have only one car, unlike those who pass these idiotic laws. With people getting more and more squeezed financially day by day (Inland Revenue now believes that owning a vehicle, no matter what, if you earn more than Rs. 50,000 a month is a valid reason for paying income tax), this is a fantastic time to start fining people for not being better off. The same goes for overcrowding in buses and trains. This law is not the way to improve the quality of public transport. Shouldn’t the CGR, too, be fined for overcrowded trains?
Exceeding the number of persons being carried in a lorry, this too, happens, for reasons of economy. One can see whole families travelling in the back of trucks and lorries when they move house. It would be inhuman to fine such people. Vesak is a time when such vehicles are used to transport people to see festive activities. Or should one refrain from imposing a fine because the whole purpose is holy? This is a lopsided law because the police would be lenient when they see fit, and fine when they don’t. It’s a law with holes as big as the craters of the moon.
Instructing without a driving instructor’s license now carries a fine of Rs. 2000. This law concerns more those who train a family member using the family car, rather than moonlighting non-professional instructors (if such people exist, they should fined, and more heavily).
People train their sons, daughters or wives for two reasons; economy, and also because training schools give insufficient instruction time to learners. They are already overcrowded; learners often stand an hour or more along public roads awaiting their turn. Many instructors are overworked, underpaid, and bad tempered.
Fining those ‘amateurs’ who instruct along major highways is acceptable. But in most such cases, they use back roads or open spaces with little or no traffic.
Call them draconian
There are more laws in this new set which need further scrutiny, but the above examples are enough to be called draconian. They will definitely be unpopular and can only lead to more corruption by the police.
In a related issue, the Cabinet has decided to implement the Capital Punishment against convicted drug traffickers. The public is bound to approve this move, though what percentage, only a reliable poll can reveal. But these facts should be considered, too. According to Harm Reduction International (HRI), a drug-focused NGO, 32 countries plus Gaza have the death penalty for this offense. All but four (America, Cuba, Sudan and South Sudan) are in Asia or the Middle East. Fourteen, including America and Cuba, have the death penalty on the books for this offense, but do not carry it out. Only in six countries – China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore – are drug traffickers routinely executed.
Do we want to join that list? It has never been proven that executions can stop or even deter the international drug trade, which flourishes everywhere due to a complex web or corruption which includes politics, law enforcement and customs. In many countries, including Latin American ones, small-time couriers and offenders are now given community service instead of jail time. Our legislators should study more up to date examples of the kind before passing draconian laws.
Thirty-two countries, plus Gaza, impose the death penalty regarding drug smuggling, according to Harm Reduction International (HRI), a drug-focused NGO. All but four (America, Cuba, Sudan and South Sudan) are in Asia or the Middle East. But in most of these countries executions are extremely rare. Fourteen, including America and Cuba, have the death penalty on the books for drug traffickers, but do not apply it in practice. Only in six countries—China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore—are drug offenders known to be routinely executed, according to HRI’s most recent analysis. (Indonesia will soon join this list, following its recent executions.) In Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, South Sudan and Syria the data are murky.