The Rajya Sabha on 31st July 2019 passed the Motor Vehicle (Amendment), Bill, 2019. It was introduced by Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari at the end of the 17th Lok Sabha session.
The Bill intends to significantly increase penalties for various traffic violations and also help achieve the UN Mandate to reduce road accidents by 50% by 2020. India has 1.46 lakhs deaths annually and is currently the country with the highest number of traffic fatalities in the world.
The bill wants to remove redundant rules. It also holds auto companies and building infrastructures liable for their poor quality and defective parts. It aims to bring more discipline on roads, better safety measures, and lastly give better assistance to road accident victims. It will be effective from 1st September 2019.
The Motor Vehicles Act
The Motor Vehicles Act is an act implemented in 1998 to regulate various aspects of road transport in India. The act provides guidelines related to registrations required and legislations to be followed when using a means of road transport. It also includes the fines and punishments levied when the rules are not followed and maintenance one is required to maintain. It also includes a list of permits and licenses that commercial vehicles need for transportation of goods. The antiquated laws were unable to address many of the issues that modern citizens faced. The procedures required to obtain licenses were very slow and modern age facilities like the internet have not been put to use.
Provisions as per the new 2019 amendment
The bill introduced by Gadkari will amend the Motor Vehicles Act, 1998. The main priority of the amendment was to reduce the alarming number of road accidents annually. Due to urbanization and a rise in the incomes of individuals, the number of motor vehicles in the country has rapidly increased. This has led to a higher number of road accidents. In 2017 alone there were1,51,417 deaths due to road accidents, an astonishing increase of 2.3% from just the previous year despite the road network growing by 44%. A similar bill had been previously introduced in the 16th Lok Sabha which lapsed due to the dissolution of the Lok Sabha.
The absence of measures to control the problem and poor coordination amongst officials is another contributing factor.
In 2007, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways appointed a committee chaired by M. S Sundar, to study traffic accidents. Amendments were made on the recommendations by the committee and a group of state transport ministers (GoM) chaired by Mr. Yoonus Khan. The idea was to do away with a few old and redundant laws and facilitate a more efficient form to address the dire situation.
The transport Minister explained that the amendments will improve road safety, provide better service with transport departments, improve rural and public transport, better safety, and overall better connectivity with computerization and online services. The bill also aims to simplify provisions related to insurance and faster help to victims and their families
Features of the 2019 bill
Following are the amendments as per the new act:
- Safety of Pedestrians and non-motorized transport- The amendment empowers the State under a new subsection in Section 138 of MVA to regulate and ensure the safety of its citizens.
- Safety of Children during the commute- Section 194 b mandates every child to be secured with a child constraint. It also holds adults accountable with a fine of Rs.1000 if not followed. Every child above 4 years old has to wear a helmet.
- Recalling of vehicles- Section 110A and 110B empowers the government to take away vehicles which do not meet the necessary criteria. New agencies will be established for testing this. The manufacturer should either reimburse the buyers for the full cost of the vehicle or reinstate the defective vehicle which fulfills the requirements.
- Engineers and road contractors will be fined for up to 1 lakh for faulty designs. This amendment was made in light of 1289 accidents that occurred in 2016 due to faulty designs. The previous bill had no rules or culpability of engineers and contractors. These agencies were infamous for taking advantage of this leniency. This accountability should lead them to be more careful with their projects.
- The bill also protects “good Samaritans” who aid accident victims at the scene of the accident. This assistance, done voluntarily, in good faith and without any expectations of returns will not be liable for any civil or criminal actions for any injury caused while they ty o save the victim. The Good Samaritans law was already enacted by the Supreme Court in 2016 but including them in the Motor Vehicles Act will help in increasing its awareness.
- The bill also offers a scheme for cashless treatment of victims during Golden Hour. Golden Hour is the 1st hour after the accident when proper assistance can increase one’s chances of survival.
- The jurisdiction issues related to obtaining a driver’s license has also been removed. One can now apply anywhere in their respective district. One can also register online. Commercial licenses will by now valid for 5 years instead of three. An expired license can be renewed for up to one year. A competence test will take place if renewed after one year.
- The scope and definition of dangerous driving have been altered to include more possible dangers divers can cause to the general public such as jumping red lights, violating stop signs, overtaking unlawfully, using handheld communication devices, etc.
- The bill has also defined taxi aggregators who were not mentioned in the 1998 bill since the service has been prominent in the last few years only. Taxi aggregators are online facilities such as Ola and Uber who enable people to book transport services. These parties will be issued licenses by state governments. Further, they must also comply with the Information Technology Act, 2000.
- The bill will provide compulsory insurance to all road users in India fo various services such as treatments, compensations to victims, and persons related to the victims who died in a hit and run accident. The nature of payment will be determined by the government.
- The government is also setting up the National Transportation Policy with the consultation of state ministers to frame the road transport, issuing permits, grants, etc.
The fines mentioned will also increase by 10% every 3 years. Punjab and Madhya Pradesh are yet to implement the heavy fines. Although the fines levied are inordinate, they are a necessary measure to ensure that citizens take more precautions. The downside to these heavy fines is that it could lead to an increase in corruption amongst officials. The first offender who was charged under the amendment, a secondhand Honda driver even claimed that the fine was equivalent to the cost he paid to buy the vehicle itself.
Insertion of section 2 b promotes the innovation facility of online registration is a good move to make the 1998 act more useful. Such amendments are necessary to keep up with time for better efficiency or else the laws will gradually become redundant and lead to even more dangerous consequences.
“The views of the authors are personal“
Frequently Asked Questions
Will the fines levied change?
Yes, the fines will increase by 10% every 3 years
Who is responsible for juvenile offenses?
In the case of juvenile offenses, the owner or the guardian will be liable with a fine and imprisonment of up to 3 years
Can you apply for a license online?
The bill has mentioned that it will enable citizens to apply for licenses online. The issue of jurisdiction has also been removed.
What is the time period till you can apply for a new license once your license expires?
The time limit has been extended to 1 year for personal vehicles and 5 years from for commercial vehicles