Illegal enforcement of speed limits by cops
Dr.Tilak S.Fernando for Sinhalaya News Agency One would have expected after the Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva delivered a judgement on a Fundamental Rights case earlier this year, filed by a couple living in Saliyapura , Anuradhapura, ordering the police to remove all signboards which carried various speed limits other than 56 Kmph in City limits and 72 Kmph outside the city, the traffic police hierarchy should have taken note of the Supreme Court Order and educated some of the ignorant and errant traffic officers who are still harassing the motorists .

Another case that surfaced the lack of traffic police knowledge was highlighted in the Daily News where one Mr.Premadasa Dissanayake of Colombo challenged the Peliyagoda Police (case no. 35512) in Wattala Magistrates Court, under the Motor Traffic Act for speeding after an officer had showed a radar gun with registered a speed of 72 km/h on February 29 2008. The case was contested by Mr. Leo Perera, a Senior Retired Inspector General of Police who has now turned a practising lawyer specialising in Motor Traffic Law.

In his defence Mr. Leo Perera had pointed out to the Courts that, as per traffic sign regulations, to impose fines for speeding offences, traffic sign boards should have been erected at the starting point and the point where the speed limit ceases. His argument being ‘in the absence of these mandatory signs nobody could be charged’! Finally the case was thrown out while the traffic police involved in the case was exposed as completely ignorant of the law!

Another problem experienced by motorists in such cases of apprehension is where a traffic police officer issues a penalty notice and takes possession of the driver’s licence. Subsequently the driver will have to pay the fine at a post office and travel all the way up to the police station in the area where the alleged offence was committed. The irony is that although it is said that when one sends the payment receipt by post enclosing a self addressed stamped envelope to the respective police station, they are supposed to send the motorist’s licence back by return post which does not happen like clockwork, except in the law book, and perhaps the person will have to make a special trip all the way to the police station concerned with added costs.

On September 8 2008, at 16.35 hrs, I was travelling in a group of seven, in a rented vehicle with driver Ananda Upul Kumara of 82B, Galagedara Watta, Moratenna, Panadura to Kataragama. On our return along the Hambantota open stretch of newly developing road, the driver suddenly applied brakes and stopped the vehicle in a place called Welipenna. There were no traffic police to be seen ahead of us but later noticed that a traffic police officer PC hiding inside a three wheeler by himself on the opposite side of the road had apparently held a radar gun and accused the driver of exceeding speed limits on that stretch of the road showing a radar gun reading of 62 km/h.

This was an area where there were no speed limit boards at all. However, when it was pointed out that the new speed limit outside city limits was 72 km/h, the policeman tried to twist his story with a view to nab the driver, pointing out endless violations of the traffic law by the driver and finally issued a charge sheet for a penalty of Rs.550 quite contrary to his verbal charge. Only after several hours the driver Ananda Upul Kumara noticed what was written on the penalty sheet as “Overtaking from the wrong side” which was a fabricated charge and a deliberate accusation.

Ananda Upul Kumara has paid his fine on September 29 and forwarded the payment receipt no. 512174 by registered post with the requisite stamped, self addressed envelope to the OIC/HQI ( Traffic) Hambantota Police station to have his driving licence back by registered post, but to no avail despite repeated telephone calls to this effect.

Out of desperation he contacted me seeking some assistance on the matter. On October 17 2008, I took the trouble to contact the HQI/ OIC (Traffic) at Hambantota Police station on 0472220223 to be advised by a police officer to ‘phone back tomorrow’!

This is the type of inconvenience and harassment when a motorist becomes a victim of the traffic police in Sri Lanka after a genuine breach of the traffic law or due to ignorance or highhandedness of the officer concerned.

I would like to bring this matter to the notice of HQI/OIC (traffic) at Hambantota to kindly look into this matter and ensure that Ananda Upul Kumara’s Licence (No. A. 001505293 be returned to him without further inconvenience and harassment to him.

It would also help the motorists if the Minister of Transport could consider introducing a credit card payment system on traffic offences where one could pay the fine instantly without having to lose or part with a valuable driving licence.

This would also make the whole process simple, clean and a hassle free operation for everyone.