T.S. SATYAN writes: According to a recent report in The Telegraph, Calcutta, “a traffic policeman fined an Andhra Pradesh High Court judge for not wearing a seat belt in an act that won him appreciation from his boss but had the Judiciary smelling a rat.”
This story reminded me of my friend C.W. Kuttappa, the legendary traffic police officer of old Mysore in the 1950s who used to race around town looking for traffic offenders.
The very mention of his name would put terror into the hearts of drivers of overloaded vehicles, and ‘double-riding’ cyclists or pedalling without a lamp at night. They were all mercilessly hauled up and fined.
Old Mysoreans still remember how Kuttappa stopped Maharaja Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar‘s car as His Highness’ driver had not switched on the lights despite the dark evening.
When the Maharaja curiously peeped out of the window to have a look at the policeman, Kuttappa stood to attention, saluted the Raja saying: “Excuse me, Mahaswami. It’s already getting dark and your driver has not switched on the lights. As a humble servant of your government, I am only following the traffic rules.”
The Maharaja expressed his regret before chastising the driver. And applauded Kuttappa for his sense of duty.
My friend, the science writer G.T. Narayana Rao, told me the story of his encounter with Kuttappa during the Dasara holidays in 1956.
As the in-charge Commander of the National Cadet Corps (NCC) in the then State of Coorg (Kodagu), GTN had come from Mercara to Mysore to receive the cadets returning by train after their annual training camp at Bangalore.
All the cadets and the officer leading them boarded the waiting bus at the railway station.
The driver counted the number of passengers and exclaimed, “The official permit is for 49 passengers, but there is one extra person here. Kuttappa’s squad may catch us any moment.”
The officer said that he would meet the situation should it ever arise.
As expected, a few kilometres off the City, Kuttappa’s squad stopped the bus. A policeman started counting the number of heads, verified the licence and issued the official chargesheet to the driver.
“Yours is a case of transgression of rules,” said Kuttappa in a firm tone. The driver turned back at the officer.
The NCC officer, a three-starred Captain in uniform, got down from the bus to meet Kuttappa who gave him a smart salute. The Captain argued that the bus was carrying defence personnel and so the driver could not be punished for any traffic offence.
“Sorry, sir. The case is between the driver and the State Government. No exemption to anyone,” said Kuttappa.
The situation had become tight.
Says Narayana Rao: “As the Senior Officer, but in civilian attire, I got out of the bus, moved up to this embodiment of discipline and introduced myself as the extra passenger responsible for the offence. I told him, ‘Here is my identity card. Please book the case against me. I will face the Court and undergo the prescribed punishment. Kindly withdraw the case against the innocent driver’.”
Kuttappa threw a stern and piercing glance at Narayana Rao, took back the chargesheet from the driver and muttered: “Kuttappa too is human, sir. Go.”