BRTA mobile courts operating under the new Road Transport Act was lenient in meting out punishment for traffic offences on the first day yesterday.
The courts fined as little as possible to warn errant motorists, officials said.
Six mobile courts in the capital filed 88 cases under the law yesterday. The courts also fined offenders Tk 1.21 lakh and seized papers of two vehicles for violating the act that came into effect on Sunday, AKM Masudur Rahman, director (enforcement) of Bangladesh Road Transport Authority told The Daily Star.
The mobile courts mostly fined bus drivers who had outdated or forged licences.
The new law, with increased fines for traffic offences, was supposed to be put into effect on November 1. But it was delayed as transport associations had allegedly been lobbying against it.
There were legal hurdles to conduct mobile court under the act. But they were cleared by the government on Sunday.
The BRTA courts were conducted in Uttara, Banani, Pallabi, Rayerbagh, Manik Mia Avenue, and different other areas of the city.
Bus drivers were also fined for overloading, adding more passenger seats than stated on papers, and not having proper documents and fare charts.
Several bus drivers who had been fined on Manik Mia Avenue told this correspondent that they knew about the steep increase in fines, but their employers encouraged them to drive even though they didn’t have proper documents.
Many drivers were fined for driving medium or heavy vehicles with licences issued for light vehicles.
BRTA Executive Magistrate Masud Hasan Patwary said one could upgrade their light vehicle drivers’ licence one year after its issuance.
A bus owner present at the scene alleged that getting a licence from the BRTA was not easy.
“They [officials] demand Tk 10,000, half of which is bribe, for a licence. How would a driver pay this?” the bus owner asked.
He then demanded a fair licencing process.
Another bus owner alleged that the mobile court was turning a blind eye to the offences of buses of the state-run Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation.
This correspondent also saw a BRTC bus driving on Manik Mia Avenue with its doors open, and picking up and dropping off passengers on the road--both punishable offences under the new act.
The BRTA officials refuted both the allegations.
BRTA director Masudur said the courts didn’t sentence anyone to prison as officials would fully enforce the law gradually.
Another Executive Magistrate Sarah Sadia Taznin said her court had fined 10 offenders Tk 13,500 on Manik Mia Avenue.
“I imposed a maximum of Tk 5,000 and a minimum Tk 500. As per the new law, the fine would have been greater,” she said.
BRTA Executive Magistrate SM Samirul Islam said they had not started fining any jaywalkers yet.
The BRTA director claimed that situation on Dhaka streets have already started changing for the better because of the stricter law.
Although the volume of traffic was moderate for a weekday, the usual chaotic driving and jaywalking were noticeable.
At busy intersections, the traffic division of Dhaka Metropolitan Police put up banners mentioning the offences and punishment for violations.