The Upper House (Rajya Sabha), on Wednesday, passed the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019, to amend the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. The Bill had earlier been passed by the Lok Sabha. The legislation was previously introduced in 2017 but couldn’t pass the Rajya Sabha and lapsed with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha. The 2019 Bill was tabled in the Rajya Sabha by Nitin Gadkari, the Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways.
Participating in the debate in the Rajya Sabha, MPs had raised concerns over the growing number of road accidents and said there should be a compensation mechanism for the deceased.
The Bill was passed in an attempt to improve road safety in the country.
The Bill proposes huge increases in various penalties for traffic violations, protection of good samaritans, and tightening of road traffic regulations such as issuance of driving license, recall of defective vehicle components by auto companies, and making vehicle owners criminally liable for violations committed by juvenile drivers.
The Upper House passed the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019, with 108 votes in favour and 13 against it, with three amendments moved by Union Road Transport and Highways Minister. The legislation was passed by the Lok Sabha on July 23, but the bill will be sent back to it due to a typo.
Addressing a briefing after the session, Gadkari said, “This is not only a Motor Vehicle Act, but also a road safety bill. I believe it will cause a decline in accidents, the passing of this bill is a tribute to those who lost their lives in accidents.”
Replying to a debate on the bill, Gadkari cleared the concerns of states and said that the Centre would not encroach on any of the States’ rights, including a right to levy vehicle registration charge and permit fee besides posting of officials. Not a single rupee of state revenue would be taken by the Centre, he said. The rights of the states to set up driving training institutes will also not be tinkered with, he added.
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 an accident case.
Gadkari said the legislation will instill fear of law in people who violate traffic rules as an intelligent traffic system will monitor traffic offences.
Gadkari said the process for obtaining driving licenses would now be computerised and anyone, whether a minister or MP, will be able to procure licenses only after passing online tests. He said the government has no intention to intervene with the states and state transport corporations.
The bill also 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 a law, the new vehicles will be registered at the level of dealers, which will eventually remove buyers’ interface with the registration authorities.
Below are some of the other important proposals in the Bill:
1) It makes having an Aadhaar card mandatory for getting a driving license and obtaining vehicle registrations.
2) In road traffic violations done by juveniles, the guardian of the juvenile or the owner of the vehicle would be held responsible unless they prove that the offence was committed without their knowledge or they tried to prevent it. The registration of the vehicle will be cancelled and the juvenile will be tried under the Juvenile Justice Act.
3) For deaths in hit-and-run cases, the government will provide a compensation of Rs 2 lakh or more to the family of the victim. This compensation has been increased from the current amount of just Rs. 25,000.
4) A Motor Vehicle Accident Fund will provide compulsory insurance cover to all road users in India for certain types of accidents.
5) The minimum fine for drunk driving was Rs. 2,000. This has now been increased to Rs. 10,000
6) The fine for rash driving has been increased to Rs. 5,000. Previously, this amount was just Rs. 1,000.
7) Driving without a license will attract a minimum fine of Rs 5,000 as against Rs 500 at present.
8) The fine for over-speeding is now Rs 1,000-2,000, as opposed to the Rs. 400 previously.
9) Not wearing seatbelt would attract a fine of Rs 1,000 as against Rs 100 at present.
10) The fine for talking on mobile phones while driving has been increased from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 5,000.
11) The bill also provides for the protection of good samaritans. Those who come forward to help victims in an accident will be protected from civil or criminal liability. It will also be optional for them to disclose their identity to the police or medical personnel.
12) Contractors and civic agencies will be accountable for faulty design, construction and poor maintenance of roads leading to accidents.
14) The Bill removes the cap on liability for third-party insurance. The 2016 Bill had capped the maximum liability at Rs 10 lakh in case of death and Rs 5 lakh in case of grievous injury.
15) The time limit for renewal of driving license is increased from one month to one year before and after the expiry date.
16) The government can recall motor vehicles whose components or engine do not meet the required standards. Manufacturers can be fined up to Rs 500 crore in case of sub-standard components and parts.