What are the important Motor Vehicle Act provisions everyone should know about?

Motor Vehicles Act

The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 was enacted by the Parliament of India in 1988 and it came into force from 1st July, 1989. It governs and regulates important aspects of road transport vehicles by including provisions for licensing drivers and conductors, registration of Motor vehicles, control of transport vehicles, control of traffic, no fault liability provisions, insurance for motor vehicles etc. It also lays down an elaborate list of offences and penalties under the Act as well as the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989.

The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha on July 15, 2019 by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. The Bill received the assent of the President on the 9th August, 2019 and became the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019. It seeks to amend the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 to provide for road safety.  The Act provides for grant of licenses and permits related to motor vehicles, standards for motor vehicles, and penalties for violation of these provisions.[i]

Driving Licenses under the Act:

  • According to section 3 of the Act, it is necessary to have a driving license for any person to drive a motor vehicle at any public place. Section 4 of the Act prescribes the age limit to hold a driver’s license. A driver’s license can be issued to a person once he/she attains the age of 18. One exception to this is the motor cycle with engine capacity for not more than 50 cc which can be ridden by any person above the age of 16 years and a transport vehicle shall only be driven by a person above the age of 20 years.
  • Section 19 deals with the Power of a licensing authority to disqualify someone from holding a license or revoking such license under circumstances.

The following are the circumstances in which the power under this provision may be exercised;

(a) is a habitual criminal or a habitual drunkard;                                                          

(b) is a habitual addict to any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance within the meaning of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985;

(c) is using or has used a motor vehicle in the commission of a cognizable offence;   

(d) has by his previous conduct as driver of a motor vehicle shown that his driving is likely to be attended with danger to the public;

(e) has obtained any driving license by a fraud or misrepresentation;

(f) has committed any such act which his likely to cause nuisance or danger to the public, as may be prescribed by the Central Government, in accordance with this Act;

(g) has failed to submit to, or has not passed, the tests referred to under the Act;

(h) being a person under the age of eighteen years who has been granted a learner’s license or a driving license with the consent in writing of the person having the care of the holder of the license and has ceased to be in such care.[ii]

The authority is expected to give the holder of the driving license an opportunity of being heard and then, if satisfied with any of the above mentioned situations, may record reasons in writing to either disqualify the person from holding the license or revoke such a license.

Control of Traffic:

  • Section 119 of the Act imposes a duty on every driver of a motor vehicle to obey traffic signs and shall obey all instructions given by any police officer for the time being engaged in regulating traffic in any public place.
  • Section 128 of the Act provides for safety measures for drivers and pillion riders, according to which a driver of a two-wheeled motor cycle is not allowed to carry more than one person in addition to himself on the motor cycle.
  • Section 129 of the Act makes it mandatory for every person driving or riding a motor vehicle to wear protective headgear (i.e., Helmet) while in a public place. However, this section shall not apply to a person who is a Sikh, if he is, while driving or riding on the motor cycle, in a public place, wearing a turban.
    However, after the Amendment in 2019, every person, above four years of age, driving or riding or being carried on a motorcycle (i.e., pillions) shall wear protective headgear while in a public place. Therefore, after the amendment, it is now mandatory for every person driving or riding along with the pillion on the vehicle should wear a helmet, given that the pillion rider is above the age of 4 years.
  • The following duties are imposed on the driver or owner of a motor vehicle in case of accident and injury to a person according to section 134 of the Act.

When any person is injured or any property of a third party is damaged, as a result of an accident in which a motor vehicle is involved, the driver of the vehicle or other person in charge of the vehicle shall-

(a) take all reasonable steps to secure medical attention for the injured person, by conveying him to the nearest medical practitioner or hospital;

(b)  give on demand by a police officer any information required by him,

(c)  give information in writing to the insurer, who has issued the certificate of insurance, about the occurrence of the accident.[iii]

  • After the amendment in 2019, a new section was inserted in accordance with section 134, namely section 134A titled ‘Protection of Good Samaritans.’ According to this section, a “Good Samaritan” means a person, who in good faith, voluntarily and without expectation of any reward or compensation provides emergency medical or non-medical care or assistance at the scene of an accident to the victim or transports such victim to the hospital, and according to section 134A, such a person shall not be liable for any civil or criminal action for any injury to or death of the victim of an accident involving a motor vehicle, where such injury or death resulted from the Good Samaritan’s negligence in acting or failing to act while rendering emergency medical or non-medical care or assistance.


Chapter XI of the 1988 Act is substituted with a new Chapter XI through the 2019 amendment. The Amendment requires the Central government to constitute a Motor Vehicle Accident Fund, to provide compulsory insurance cover to all road users in India.  It will be utilised for:

  • treatment of persons injured in road accidents as per the golden hour scheme,
  • compensation to representatives of a person who died in a hit and run accident,
  • compensation to a person grievously hurt in a hit and run accident, and
  • compensation to any other persons as prescribed by the central government. 

This Fund will be credited through:

  • payment of a nature notified by the central government,
  • a grant or loan made by the central government,
  • balance of the Solatium Fund (existing fund under the Act to provide compensation for hit and run accidents), or
  • any other source as prescribed the central government.[iv]


Chapter XIII of the 1988 Act contains provisions for Offences and Penalties under the Act.

  • Section 177 is a general provision for punishment of offences under which, whoever contravenes any provisions of the Act, rule, regulation or notification, then for the first offence the punishment shall be Rs. 500 (after the 2019 amendment) and for a subsequent offence, the punishment shall be a fine of Rs. 1500 (after the 2019 amendment).
  • Under section 181, any person driving a vehicle in contravention with the driving license provisions under sections 3 & 4 of the 1988 Act shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine which may extend to five thousand rupees (after the 2019 amendment).
  • Under section 184 of the Act, whoever drives a motor vehicle at a speed or in a manner which is dangerous to the public or which causes a sense of alarm or distress to the occupants of the vehicle, other road users, and persons near roads, shall be punishable for the first offence with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year but shall not be less than six months or with fine which shall not be less than one thousand rupees but may extend to five thousand rupees, or with both, and for any second or subsequent offence if committed within three years of the commission of a previous similar offence with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees, or with both.

After the amendment in 2019, the following situations shall amount to driving which is dangerous to the public.

 (a) jumping a red light;

(b) violating a stop sign;

(c) use of handheld communications devices while driving;

(d) passing or overtaking other vehicles in a manner contrary to law;

(e) driving against the authorised flow of traffic; or

(f) driving in any manner that falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver and where it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that manner would be dangerous.[v]


The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019 brought in significant changes to the Principal Act (i.e., 1988 Act) including changes like omitting the concept of ‘No fault’ liability in cases where accidents led to death or permanent disablement. It also substituted the terms of punishment under Chapter XIII that deals with offences and penalties, with higher sentences and fines.

Edited by Pushpamrita Roy

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje 



[ii]s.19 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.

[iii]s.134 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.



Sindhu A
I am Sindhu, a student of Christ (Deemed to be) University. I am pursuing BA LLB, which means that most of my sentences start with "it depends". I am 11 inches taller than an average Indian woman. I am a strong believer of the fact that there's something new to learn everyday. My fixation is primarily on Intellectual property law. Topics surrounding Criminal law, Environmental law and Indian Government and politics pique my interest as well. I present an enthusiastic aptitude for research and writing. During my free time I like to read books that will leave an impression on me forever and I enjoy baking. In my opinion, "Take each day as it comes" are words to live by.