The Lahore High Court has declared that the e-challans being issued to the motorists for violation of traffic rules by the Punjab Safe City Authority (PSCA) are illegal for having no legal backing. The judge, Justice Tariq Saleem has ruled that e-challans were being issued without cabinet approval, adding that these fines cannot be issued without the requisite legislation.

Expressing regret, the judge argued that the government appears to have introduced the e-challan system without doing proper homework. This ruling has come about due to a case filed by a transporter who learned that around 55 unpaid e-challans had been issued against him, about which he was unaware. Firstly, it is obvious that there is an issue here with the notification system considering the amount of fines that had accumulated without the individual finding out about them. However, the ruling has been based on legal technicalities as the petitioner contended that only the traffic offenders should be held responsible for violations and that the liability could not be passed over to the owner of the vehicle. The judge maintained that a traffic offence entails personal liability and only the person who commits it can be penalised.

Apart from addressing the legal framework however, there are a number of other issues plaguing the e-challan system. Firstly, the system relies on the Excise and Taxation Department’s database to generate fines. However, the database is outdated as a result of which the challans are often delivered to the wrong addresses, causing problems for both the police and citizens. Secondly, there is a new penalty point system where an online record is maintained of violations that appears to be malfunctioning. Every violation has specific point penalties, and upon accumulating a set number of points the authorities can take certain actions against the driver. However, the points do not seem to be racking up for violators which means that there is no deterrence and it works in the favour of a defaulter because their violation points remain nil.

The above issues in addition to data privacy and security concerns should be addressed at the earliest because having an e-challan system is important for us. The previous model involving wardens and paperwork was plagued by corruption and inefficiencies. Many countries around the world have successfully implemented this system, and there is no reason that we can’t do the same as long as we do the required groundwork before implementing it.