A pivotal meeting was convened on 8 August 2023 in the office of the Deputy Commissioner, Mokokchung to discuss the incident involving the All Nagaland Taxi Association (ANTA) Mokokchung Unit and two private vehicles from Mariani, Assam. The meeting shed light on ANTA’s imposition of fines on the private vehicles for unauthorized commercial operations within Nagaland’s borders. The situation turned serious when the aggrieved parties took to social media (YouTube) to highlight their grievances.
Thsuvisie Phoji, NCS, the Deputy Commissioner of Mokokchung, understanding the gravity of the situation, convened and chaired the meeting together with the Additional Superintendent of Police, Mokokchung, the Motor Vehicle Inspector of Mokokchung, the Sub-Divisional Officer (Civil) of Sadar Mokokchung, and representatives from ANTA Mokokchung Unit, accompanied by four colleagues.
What really happened?
First and foremost, a complaint was received from certain drivers and taxi owners about two private cars that had reportedly come to Mokokchung on hire by private individuals from Mariani, Assam, on 7 August 2023.
Following this complaint, as per the information received, members from the ANTA Unit of Mokokchung intercepted the private cars and imposed a fine of Rs 5000 on the first car and Rs 3000 on the second car, under the premise that private vehicles are not authorized to operate commercially once they cross the inter-state border.
However, the action of ANTA Mokokchung Unit imposing fines on the private vehicles was deemed “illegal,” constituting unauthorized collection liable for penal action as per the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act and other relevant law.
Therefore, in light of this, the DC Mokokchung demanded an explanation from ANTA Mokokchung Unit regarding the actual events during the entire episode.
ANTA Mokokchung’s Stand
In response to the points raised by DC Mokokchung, the President of ANTA Mokokchung Unit explained that they had been conducting surprise checks within the Mokokchung district and HQ to curb private vehicles being used for commercial purposes. This action aimed to protect the interests of taxis and other commercial vehicles.
According to ANTA, commercial taxis pay specific road taxes to the government, which private vehicles do not. Therefore, commercial vehicles are entitled to certain protections and privileges when hired by individuals or travelers within or across the state or district.
Based on this rationale, on 7 August 2023, the Action Committee of ANTAM conducted a routine surprise check and intercepted the two private cars from Assam. Upon questioning, the drivers admitted to being hired by private individuals, reportedly Assam Rifles personnel stationed in Mokokchung, and that the journey took place on 7 August 2023.
ANTAM informed the Assam drivers that the entry of private cars into Nagaland on hire amounted to commercial activity which is strictly checked and not permitted by ANTAM. Consequently, ANTAM imposed a fine of Rs 3000 on one driver, while the other driver, supposedly a repeat offender, was fined Rs 5000.
ANTAM stated that while the fines were imposed, both drivers acknowledged their mistake and assured that such actions would not recur in the future. However, upon returning to Assam, ANTAM stated that the drivers changed their stance when they went to the media and portrayed ANTAM’s action as “illegal.”
Outcome of the Meeting
The Departmental officials present at the meeting informed ANTAM members that their action was “completely illegal” according to the law. They were neither mandated nor competent to impose or collect fines. Therefore, the officials advised that unless corrective measures were taken early on, the situation could escalate, potentially leading to an inter-district or even inter-state issue.
After further deliberation, ANTAM admitted to an “overreach” in their actions due to ignorance and expressed willingness to accept any further course of action directed by the authorities.
Appreciating the ANTA Mokokchung Unit’s stance, DC Mokokchung directed that the fines imposed on the drivers be submitted to the DC Mokokchung, who would then return the fines to the rightful owner, a process that ANTAM followed. Additionally, ANTAM were asked to submit the remaining challan booklets used for imposing the fines, as they were deemed illegal documents.
Furthermore, the chair cautioned ANTAM, advising them not to repeat such actions in the future. He warned that if they had any complaints of a similar nature, they should immediately bring it to the attention of the District Administration, Police, or Regional Transport Authority, rather than taking the law into their own hands.