Diplomats’ Vehicles Take Law For A Ride

Veeresh Malik

May 03, 2015, 12:38 PM | Updated Feb 11, 2016, 09:22 AM IST

And conventions that apply to us, the host country, suggest we are still a colonial dominion, not enjoying a status equal to that of the countries of its guests.

Are you wary of cars, bikes, trucks and buses marked CD? Their behaviour suggests the acronym stands for ‘Careless Drivers’!

It is not just here in Delhi, where blue-plate CD marked cars, trucks and other motor-vehicles appear to be way above the law, but also in other parts of India, that yellow-plate CC and also blue-plated, UN marked cars as well as other ‘foreign mission’ type of motor-vehicles consider themselves beyond Indian rules and regulations. That this extends to them not paying tolls and taxes as well as happily parking anywhere and flouting traffic laws is just one part of it. God alone can help you if your vehicle or you is involved in an accident with any of these vehicles.

This is supposed to be the basic protection enjoyed by foreign diplomats in a host country or a ‘receiving state’. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and other conventions enforce such privileges from time to time. However, it is only in India that this means that other than the diplomats of foreign countries or ‘sending states’ taking full and often undue advantage of protocols, it is also their administrative and technical staff, personal servants and drivers, domestic security agencies and service providers, and everybody even remotely connected to them, who treat India as a slave country or a colonial dominion rather than as an equal state in the delicate game of pari passu relationships played by diplomats the world over.

To an RTI application I filed years ago, as well as private enquiries subsequently, the answer provided by the authorities for “number of challans issued to diplomatic and other mission vehicles in the National Capital Territory of India” has typically always been zero. A visit to Khan Market or Vasant Vihar will provide a better answer on whether these vehicles are flouting traffic laws or not. Likewise for railway stations and airports, where again, they are a law unto themselves.

The pavements outside diplomatic missions and associated offices, including outright commercial enterprises like visa centres and seaman’s documentation centres, to give just two examples, are further instances of this blatant misuse of the Vienna Convention in India on basic adherences to the concept of co-existence of human beings, diplomats or otherwise. Is it like this globally? No.

One of the most eagerly awaited press releases in New York City, another city full of diplomats as well as those associated with the United Nations, is about the outstandings every year and cumulative collections from diplomat-issued tickets. In India, we say these vehicles have been “challaned” for improper parking and other traffic violations. Here’s another document that tries to track the link between diplomats from corrupt countries and unpaid parking tickets.

The reality is simple. Nothing prevents the law-and-order agencies in a receiving country from commencing the required prosecution legal action for any local law that has been broken. It is then up to the sending country to claim diplomatic immunity and not takert in the prosecution. A fine distinction, no doubt, but one that has huge ramifications.

It is because in this day and age, perception defeats facts. If it is perceived that diplomats from some specific countries are breaking the laws in India, it will carry more weight than any prosecution, from which they are exempted anyway.

Everywhere else in the civilised world, diplomats are issued tickets and they also pay toll as well as parking charges — barring maybe one or two specific vehicles on duty. Even in neighbouring Pakistan, diplomats caught speeding on the motorway, for example, are pulled over and ticketed.

It is in India that we keep diplomats and their extended cohorts as free-riders, it seems and as a result, suffer an almost criminal disdain of local laws by the symbol of careless driving in Delhi and neighbouring areas — the CD wheels.

Veeresh Malik is an Ordinary Citizen of India who has done many different things involving the JDS and will now start taking the mickey out of the JDS of India, no holds are barred, no benches are not scorned.

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