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Last Updated: Monday, 11 June 2007, 17:35 GMT 18:35 UK
Delhi driver punishment suspended
By Jyotsna Singh
BBC News, Delhi

Deepak Gupta with police officer
Gupta (l) was relieved not to have been sent to prison
An innovative attempt in India to sentence a man to community service rather than prison has hit problems.

Nineteen-year-old Deepak Gupta was ordered to work as a traffic officer after being found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol.

But his punishment has been suspended after Delhi police complained that his work was causing them more trouble than it was worth.

Police also complained that the punishment was too lenient.

Said sorry

Mr Gupta fell foul after the law after "a few glasses of beer" followed by a joyride in his father's car.

That resulted in a crash in which the car was damaged.

"Unlike many people who bribe the cops and get away, I confessed to the crime and said sorry to the judge," Mr Gupta told the BBC.

The Delhi court took what is believed to be an unprecedented step by not sending him to prison but, rather, giving him community service.

"I am relieved that I wasn't sent behind bars," he says.

His punishment was to help direct Delhi's traffic and book drivers guilty of traffic offences.

Huge crowds

It all started well.

He caught six motor cyclists riding without helmets. He found four drivers with no licenses on them.

He told the BBC he was really sweating it out in the scorching Delhi heat.

But now a district court has suspended the punishment until 10 July.

The court ruling followed a petition by Delhi traffic police that the unusual sentence was "too lenient" and was stopping them doing their job properly.

Huge crowds of media as well as local people had gathered at the busy Kalkaji crossing in Delhi to watch Mr Gupta at work.

Ved Singh Shera, a senior officer was helping him carry out his sentence. Mr Singh said he was very pleased with Deepak's hard work but his presence and the huge media turnout was hampering his work .

"He is being very good and disciplined. He is also very keen to learn traffic rules," Mr Singh told the BBC.

But he said the Kalkaji crossing was no training centre.

Reports say Delhi records an average of 2,000 deaths from road accidents annually, which is eight per cent of the national average of 70,000 fatal accidents.

Police in cities like Delhi, Mumbai (Bombay) and Bangalore have been really tough with traffic violators recently.

New rules, including heavy fines, were introduced nearly two months ago in Delhi to make the roads safer.

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