Licence to kill? Mumbai RTO audit says 76K DLs issued on fake driving tests


By Quaid Najmi

Mumbai, June 28: In a stunner, an audit by Maharashtra’s Accountant General (Audit II) has revealed that the Regional Transport Office (RTO) at Andheri in Mumbai may have issued a whopping 76,000 driving licences on ‘fake driving tests’ on unauthorised vehicles, last year.

Following the disclosure, the RTO has initiated a discreet probe into the matter and several heads dealing directly or indirectly with driving tests and documentation for driving licences (DLs) may be targeted, official sources indicated on Friday. The scam came to light during a test check of 1.04 lakh licences through the online data of SARATHI regarding the processing of applications of DLs after conducting the mandatory driving tests of the applicant/candidates.

The outcome of the audit was disturbing – of the 1.04 lakh licences scrutinised, 76,354 DLs, or nearly 75 per cent – were issued in 2023-2024, with suspect driving tests conducted on invalid vehicles. Following a tip-off by Thane social worker Binu Varghese, the RTO officialdom got cracking on the revelations, with far-reaching implications and the doubtful driving skills of thousands of drivers speeding around on roads.

The DL data threw up details of how four vehicles, comprising two-wheelers and cars were used repeatedly for conducting tests for different categories of vehicles ranging from scooters to cranes, on which the 76,354 questionable DLs were issued. While 41,093 DLs were issued on the two two-wheelers, another 35,261 DLs were cleared on the two four-wheelers, ostensibly blindly with probable murky dealings.

The auditors concluded, “The licences for LMV were issued but the driving tests were carried out on two-wheeler (motorcycles) vehicles. DLs were issued for motorcycle/scooter category but driving tests were carried out on LMVs. The DLs were issued for the three-wheeler category but driving tests were carried out on motorcars or two-wheelers.” Pulling up the RTO, the auditors said that it was clear how, while processing the documentation for conducting DL tests, neither the due procedures were followed nor were the vehicle details verified by the authorised RTO Inspectors. “This creates doubts on whether the tests were conducted at all or not. The cases are only illustrative (only 4 vehicles test-checked by audit) in nature and similar cases may be identified and intimated to audit,” noted the auditor in the report last fortnight.

The break-up in the audit report shows: (two test two-wheelers – No. MH-02-BX-5817 & No. MH-02-BL-3906) on which DLs issued for three-wheelers/goods vehicles (792); LMV and LMV-TR (3,501); MCWG/OG or motorcycles without gear (36,319); transport vehicles (385); and heavy vehicles like trucks, buses, cranes, etc (96) – totalling to 41,093 DLs. For the two test cars (No. MH-02-AQ2409 & No. MH-02-BQ-9727), DLs were issued for three-wheelers/goods vehicles (881); LMV and LMV-TR (33,922); MCWG/OG or motorcycles without gear (121); transport vehicles (306); and heavy vehicles like trucks, buses, cranes, etc (31) – totalling to 35,261 DLs. When contacted, a RTO official, declining to be identified, admitted to IANS that this is the audit data of just one RTO (Andheri), and there are 53 more RTOs in Maharashtra (54), plus over 1,100 RTOs across India where such practices may be rampant, which issue around 1.20 crore DLs annually.

“They also must be audited to detect such dangerous malpractices on top priority by the states and Centre, plus, review the rules to make the learners driving courses longer and driving tests more stringent to ensure safety of people on Indian roads”, urged the RTO officer. On his part, Varghese contended that despite being aware of the ongoing frauds, why did the RTO top brass not initiate any action and alleged “obvious wheeling-dealings” in issuing thousands of DLs haphazardly daily. “It’s difficult to imagine that lakhs of drivers may be on the roads who may have acquired their DLs without proper driving tests… Then we get examples like the Pune Porsche accident case involving a minor rich brat who snuffed out two youngsters in just seconds,” said Varghese.