New Delhi: When the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed a Bill to tighten road traffic regulations such as the issuance of driving licence and imposed stricter penalties for violations in an attempt to improve road safety, it was actually ending a British legacy. With the Upper House passing the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019, with 108 votes in favour and 13 against it, with three amendments moved by Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, now the owner of a vehicle cannot plead innocent if the vehicle is involved in an accident.
Explaining the amended law, lawyer Amitabh Sinha said that when this law first took shape under the British rule, the only people who owned cars were the British officers and their Indian acolytes. “The pedestrians being hapless Indians, when they met with an accident, they found it difficult to get real justice, as the motor vehicles law did not make the British owner share the culpability in the crime,” Sinha explained.
“Such a law helped the British maintain a distance between the rulers and the ruled, which was the hallmark of the British government in India,” Sinha said.
The proposals in the new motor vehicles law are based on the recommendations of transport ministers from 18 states, which were vetted by a standing committee of Parliament.
- The Bill includes penalties in the range of Rs 1,000 – Rs 2,000 for over-speeding.
- Driving without insurance will be punishable with Rs 2,000 fine while driving without helmets will attract Rs 1,000 penalty and 3-month suspension of licence.
- Also, the guardian/owner will be deemed guilty in case of road offence by juveniles, while registration of the vehicle will be cancelled. As per the new provisions, “guardian/owner shall be deemed to be guilty and there will be a penalty of Rs 25,000 with three years imprisonment and cancellation of registration of the Motor Vehicle”.
- Traffic violations would now attract a penalty of Rs 500 in place of Rs 100 earlier, while disobedience of orders of authorities will attract a minimum penalty of Rs 2,000 in place of Rs 500 earlier.
- Penalty for unauthorised use of vehicles without a licence has been proposed at Rs 5,000 while those driving without a licence will have to shell out the same amount and those found driving despite disqualification would be fined Rs 10,000.
- Penalty for dangerous driving would be increased to Rs 5,000 from Rs 1,000, while drunken driving under the proposed new law would attract a fine of Rs 10,000.
- “If aggregators are found violating licensing conditions, they will be charged a sum of up to Rs 1 lakh” while overloading of vehicles would attract a penalty of Rs 20,000.
Gadkari said the new motor vehicles law legislation will instil fear of the law in people who violate traffic rules as an intelligent traffic system will monitor traffic offences.
The legislation provides for stricter punishment for various traffic-related offences as well as higher penalties, including compensation of Rs 5 lakh for death and Rs 2.5 lakh for grievous injury in a motor vehicle accident case.
The legislation had been passed by the Lok Sabha on 23 July but the bill will be sent to Lok Sabha again because of a typo. Replying to a debate on the bill, Gadkari allayed concerns of States, saying the Centre was not encroaching on any of their rights including the right to levy vehicle registration charge and permit fee, besides posting of officials. Not a single penny of State revenue would be taken by the Centre, he asserted.
Also, the rights of the states to set up driving training institutes too will remain unaffected, Gadkari said.
The minister said India was facing a shortage of 22 to 25 lakh drivers and to fill this gap, driver training institutes were planned pan India and the Centre was ready to provide Rs 1 crore subsidy for each centre. He said such centres were not needed in metropolises like Delhi, Mumbai or Chennai but in remote rural areas to uplift tribals and poor and 1,000 such centres were planned.
The minister allayed fears of members regarding roping in of corporates, saying no rights were being given to companies and, in fact, a few firms had come forward with Rs 20-25 crore free-of-charge training centres under CSR.
Gadkari said the process for obtaining driving licenses would now be computerised and anyone, whether a minister or MP, will get licenses only after passing online tests. He said the government has no intention to intervene with the power of states and state transport corporations were free to run their buses. He advocated the London transport model, stating that many state government undertakings had turned NPAs and the government was also exploring bringing in foreign funds.
The minister made it clear that vehicle registration rights remained with the states and asserted that the Centre was not benefitting by even a rupee. He stressed on the need to promote electric buses and having a transport policy. He said a 265-seat bus skybus was planned between Dhaula Kuan and Manesar.
The Bill proposes a National Transportation Policy for ushering in guidelines on the transportation of goods and passengers. The minister said it will be framed only after holding consultations with the states.
Once the Bill becomes the new Motor Vehicles Law, the new vehicles will be registered at the dealers level and it will eventually remove buyers’ interface with the registration authorities.
The Bill, which was pending for approval in the Rajya Sabha, had lapsed after the term of the 16th Lok Sabha ended. It proposes Rs 10,000 fine for not giving way to emergency vehicles and Rs 10,000 for driving despite disqualification. Aggregators violating driving licences will be fined up to Rs 1 lakh.
Earlier participating in the debate, members raised concern over the growing number of road accidents and said that there should be a compensation mechanism for the deceased.
The Congress alleged that the Centre has “hoodwinked” the Rajya Sabha on the bill as it was “defective” and not in the form passed in the Lok Sabha last week.