Car stolen? …do read this!
By Maxwell Pereira
Jt. Commissioner of Police/Traffic, Delhi

maxpk@vsnl.com

2002 saw 7434 motor vehicles stolen in Delhi. Only 1706 were recovered. 4337 have been stolen till 15th August this 2003. It is paradoxical how callous and careless we get safeguarding our vehicles from theft. A missing ten rupee note at home may invite wrath enough to berate the domestic help and report it to the police. And yet its common to see on most roads a car worth lakhs and lakhs of rupees, left unattended and without adequate anti-theft features. On an average more than twenty of these vehicles get stolen in Delhi in a day.

When it happens, a vehicle stolen is painful to all. At times traumatic! A cause of concern also for the police. Stolen vehicles are often used to commit crimes. A motor vehicle being very mobile, and number plates and registration papers can easily be changed, tracking and tracing becomes difficult and complicated. Consequently, the vehicle's Engine number and its Chassis number are considered crucial; manipulation of these identification features is not simple.

Complainants are often distraught at the seemingly don't-care attitude of the police to vehicle thefts reported. Especially when no particular investigation activity in individual car theft case is seen, leading to the belief that the police do not care. That's not really true. MV thefts are a typical crime investigated by specialised units like the Anti Auto-Theft Squads and Special Staffs, who go after the criminal or the gang involved, tracking their modus operandi and method of disposal - from which end, more often than not, the vehicle is finally recovered and then linked to the criminal and to the owner. For all of which, it is necessary that relevant information about the vehicle gets into the data bank maintained for the purpose, at the earliest.

A stolen vehicle when located or recovered becomes case property and a subject matter of Court proceedings. In such a case, the Court of jurisdiction can release the vehicle to its registered owner on Superdari. Superdari denotes that the owner to whom the vehicle has been released is free to use it, subject to an undertaking to produce the vehicle if and when needed for investigation or for production before the court. A request for Superdari is procedural and no lawyer is required to plead for this. Information regarding recovery of the vehicle needs to be intimated by the vehicle owner to the Insurance Company; which in turn is to depute its surveyor to inspect the vehicle and assess the actual loss suffered.

The aggrieved that have lost their vehicle are often in a hurry to claim insurance and get on with it. The insurance companies however are wary of this hurry, lest it may discourage proper investigation into the theft and adequate efforts to recover the stolen property. To strike a balance, a MV theft case is normally kept pending investigation for a period of one month. If not traced during this period, nor the culprits identified, the police do then provide the complainant with an 'untraced' report to enable him to process his insurance claim with the company.

From time to time, the Police arrest auto-lifters and recover stolen vehicles in numbers. The process involved takes time and if the case has in the meantime been sent as 'untraced', the investigation is re-opened and the recovered vehicle is restored either to the original owner, or to the Insurance Company (if the owner has already taken his claim). At times there is procrastination when Insurance Companies do not deem it worth their while to collect a totally damaged 'recovered' vehicle, resulting in sore sights of piled up junk in police station yards. The police are then forced to auction such lot adopting the laid down procedure for the purpose.

In its ongoing effort to reach out, the police management has recently circulated instructions to police stations to educate aggrieved vehicle owners with certain useful tips and 'do's and 'don'ts. Some of them are listed here:

In case of a vehicle theft, do not lose time in informing the Police Control Room (PCR) by dialling 100 and the Police Station concerned, furnishing all details - the vehicle's model, make, colour and prominent features if any. At the earliest, furnish the engine and chassis number too. Obtain a copy of the FIR without fail and intimate the insurance company. Inform the RTO concerned by registered-AD letter stating that your vehicle is stolen and requesting that no 'No Objection Certificate' be issued for any name/ownership transfer. Retain the keys of the vehicle and all other documents including its Registration Certificate.

In the event of non-recovery yet, any time after expiry of 30 days seek and obtain the 'untraced' report from the SHO to facilitate processing of Insurance claim. On settlement of claim, inform the concerned police station by registered post that the claim is settled. If and when the vehicle is recovered, intimate this information to the insurance company concerned. And transfer the R.C. of the vehicle in favour of the insurance company. Submit also a letter of indemnity and subrogation on appropriate value stamp papers.

An application for return of the vehicle can be filed immediately after the stolen vehicle is recovered. The Magistrate passes appropriate orders by taking appropriate bond and guarantee as well as security for the return of the stolen vehicle. This can be done at any point in time after the vehicle's recovered.

Police stations are under instructions to get these suggestions printed in Hindi and in English and distribute them to MV-theft victims along with the copy of the FIR. These will be on display on the PS notice board… and the assistance of the RWAs and Market Associations is being sought to popularise these.

(The author can be reached at http://planetindia.net/maxwell or his email: maxpk@vsnl.com0)900word: 25.08.2003: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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