Just about a month after the new Motor Vehicles Amendment Act (MVA) 2019, which contains 63 provisions that deal with penalties, licenses, registration and the National Transport Policy, was issued to be implemented from 1 September 2019, many states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, West Bengal etc. have expressed their dissent over the Act.
The bill that was passed by the Lok Sabha on 23 July, was expected to bring a lot of changes in how Indian roads and vehicular transportation are governed and to ensure more discipline on roads by tightening rules and increasing penalties. To name a few amendments, it increases penalties for several offences under the Act including the maximum penalty for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs which has been increased from Rs 2,000 to Rs 10,000 and the fine for rash driving from Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000.
Union Minister of Road Transport and Highway Nitin Gadkari had stated that states were free to make changes in the penalties under the new MVA. The statement came after some states, including Gujarat, Goa and Bihar, expressed dissent over its implementation and reduced the penalties after reports of hefty fines imposed by police for rules violations hit the headlines.
States that have implemented the Act with reduced penalties
One of the first states to refuse the new MVA was Gujarat. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani had asked transport officials of the state to take a relook at the steep fines in the amended MVA. After consultation with the transport department, the state government had decided to slash the fine on triple riding by 90 percent. The original fine for triple riding under the new Motor Vehicles Act was Rs 1,000. The government reduced this to Rs 100.
While the Central law has proposed a fine of Rs 1,000 for pillion riders not wearing a helmet, this provision will not be implemented at all in Gujarat. For not fastening seat belts, car drivers will be fined Rs 500 against Rs 1,000 under the Central Act. The new provisions will come into force in Gujarat from 16 September, Rupani said.
“The fine amount for different violations proposed under the Central law is the upper limit. Penalty collection is not our objective. We want people to be safe. The Gujarat government will enforce the law strictly wherever it is needed. We will be lenient wherever needed. That is why we will not impose any fine on pillion riders,” Rupani said.
The Uttarakhand government become the second state to reject the new MVA. The state had relaxed the quantum of certain fines levied under the new Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Act 2019 on 11 September.
Announcing the slew of relaxations in penalties imposed as per the new rule, Uttarakhand minister Madan Kaushik has said that driving without a license would now invite a fine of Rs 2,500 instead of Rs 5,000 as levied under the new Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Act 2019. "Driving without a license or driving by an underage driver would now invite a fine of Rs 2,500 instead of Rs 5,000. Earlier it was only Rs 500," said Kaushik. "Those who have been declared ineligible to hold a license if found driving a vehicle will be imposed with a fine of Rs 5000 and not Rs 10,000 as imposed by the Centre," he said.
However, the state government is in congruence with several of the fines imposed under the new Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Act 2019 and has made no changes in it. "There are no changes in the fine imposed for over-speeding of vehicle. The Centre has kept it Rs 2,000 and we have kept it same," he said.
Almost the same time as Uttarakhand, Karnataka government also followed suit and slashes the 'hefty' fines under the MVA. Just last week, the state government had issued a notification regarding the revised fines on select traffic offences. The government has slashed rates on several traffic offences under the new MVA but has kept penalties for drunken driving unchanged.
As per the latest order issued, the fine for not wearing a helmet and seat belt while driving has been reduced to Rs 500 against the prescribed amount of Rs 1,000 in the new Act.
For allowing an unauthorised person to drive a vehicle, the fines for two-wheelers and three-wheelers will be Rs 1,000, Rs 2,000 for LMV and Rs 5,000 for other vehicles. The rates have been slashed "in the exercise of the powers conferred by Section 200 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (Central Act 59 of 1988) read with Section 21 of the General Clauses Act, 1897," read the notification by the state government.
Karnataka deputy chief minister and transport minister, Laxman Sangappa Savadi had earlier said the fine rates under the new Act will be revised. Before that, Yediyurappa had directed the state transport department to slash fines under the amended Motor Vehicles Act 2019 and to study the Gujarat model of revised traffic fines to implement something similar in Karnataka.
States that have not implemented the Act yet
Maharashtra transport minister Diwakar Raote had requested Nitin Gadkari to reconsider and reduce the "exorbitantly increased" fines under the Motor Vehicles Act, while the state is yet to make a decision about the implementation of the new Act. The Maharashtra government had said that it will wait for a reply from Nitin Gadkar and put the implementation of the Motor Vehicles Act on hold, reports India Today.
In a letter to Nitin Gadkari, dated 11 September, Raote said, "It is seen that the fines prescribed in the new Act have been increased exorbitantly and have raised a public outcry. The Centre is requested to reconsider and reduce the same by making suitable amendments in the Motor Vehicle Act."
Raote, however, hailed the amendments saying that they are commendable in view of road safety.
Odisha government has sought time for implementing the amended MVA while the state government had relaxed implementation for three months after a spat between police and the public at several places in Bhubaneswar. “The chief minister directed the enforcement agencies not to go on an overdrive, but rather counsel and handhold the public. The Transport Department has been directed to augment public services, open extra counters, conduct camps in public institutions so as to enable motor vehicle users to update their compliance status,” the statement read according to Indian Express.
Meanwhile, apart from these two, states like Goa, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Kerela, Chhattisgarh and Punjab have also put the implementation on hold so that awareness campaigns could be carried out for commuters and roads could also be repaired before implementing the Act.
Fines collected so far
There are no official figures to state the total amount of revenue collected for far as fines under the new Act. But according to reports, in the first four days since the implementation of the fine, a whopping Rs 1.41 crore had been collected via challans in Haryana and Odisha alone. Odisha, along with Delhi and Haryana, was among the first to implement the amended Motor Vehicles Act.
With a fine of Rs 1.41 lakh, a Rajasthan-registered truck has broken the record for receiving the highest fine for traffic violations under the Act, for "overloading" by the enforcement wing of the Delhi transport department.
Times Now reported that 3,900 challans were issued in Delhi on the first day of the new traffic rules being implemented.
In another such incident, an auto-rickshaw in Odisha's capital Bhubaneswar fined Rs 47,500 for "riding his vehicle without an "authentic driving licence, registration certification, insurance certificate as well as for drunken driving", News18 reported.
Amid dissatisfaction over the increased fines, Gadkari defended the amendments and said that the high amounts as fines were to deter people from breaking the traffic rules. Speaking at the annual SIAM convention in Delhi, Gadkari said, "The government does not desire to raise the limits of fine. The issue is that a time should come that no one gets penalised and everyone follows the rules."
In another event in Nagpur, Gadkari said that the idea behind the stringent rules "is to make people conform to rules", and asked what is more important — lives or money. Gadkari, addressing the criticism of the high penalties under the new law, said that only those who were breaking the law were paying fines.
Experts on 24 September came forward in support of the new Motor Vehicle Act 2019, which is attracting criticism for heavy penalties, saying its implementation will bring down the number of road fatalities in the country, reported PTI. About 7,33,000 people died in the past five years in India due to road accidents, according to road safety experts and civil society organisations at a conference here citing World Health Organisation data. The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019, which provides for heavy penalties for traffic rule violations, came into force from 1 September.
Nitin Gadkari had said about five lakh deaths occur in India per year due to traffic laws' violation during a press conference earlier this month. He also said that barring one or two states, all were on board on the new law.
Vinay P Sahasrabuddhe, Rajya Sabha MP and chairman of the Rajya Sabha's Select Committee on MVA Bill, 2017, requested state governments to implement the law in their respective state as effectively as possible. Rajesh Yadav, transport commissioner, Government of Rajasthan, said: "Instead of promoting good provisions of MVA, people are joking and creating cartoons on MVA." Road safety is a comprehensive issue. Maximum deaths are of earning members of family, 60-70 percent are of two-wheelers and mostly of poor people, he said and added that awareness is required at a large level by central and states governments who should promote the MVA Act and its provisions.
George Cheriyan, director of CUTS (Consumer Unity and Trust Society), said, "There are some good provisions in the new MVA like licensing reform, legalising good Samaritan and several others which are not being highlighted. We need to change the impression of a high penalty."
Pradeep S Mehta, secretary-general of CUTS said issues related to road safety must be looked at. The level of patience and indiscipline among road users is decreasing and this is the root cause of road accidents. "RWAs (residence welfare associations) need to be creating awareness. This can be a way of incentivising. Filmmakers and actors can also promote usage of helmets and seat belts, etc, for greater awareness," Mehta said.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Sep 30, 2019 14:55:17 IST