The penalty for drunk driving is being raised five times to Rs 10,000 and if such driving results in the death of another person, the driver can be booked for a non-bailable offence with imprisonment up to 10 years. Changes to the Motor Vehicles Act, approved by the Cabinet Friday, show that the Ministry of Road Transport has sought “appropriate action” from the Ministry of Home Affairs to hold such drivers responsible for culpable homicide under Section 299 of the Indian Penal Code. In the IPC, Section 299 states: “Whoever causes death by doing an act with the intention of causing death, or with the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, or with the knowledge that he is likely by such act to cause death, commits the offence of culpable homicide.”
In case of accidents, such drivers will not be booked under provisions of negligence but their action will be considered as pre-meditated commitment of crime, punishable under relevant provisions of the IPC depending on the consequences of the accident.
The new Motor Vehicles Act also raises fines on other offences including driving by a minor.
* In order to discourage car owners from handing over vehicles to juveniles, registration of the vehicle in use will be cancelled and, in case of an accident by the juvenile, his or her family will be fined up to Rs 25,000 with or without imprisonment up to three years.
* The amendments also provide for protective headgear for children above the age of four while riding a two-wheeler with a check on the quality and standard of the helmets.
* Not wearing a helmet while driving will attract a fine of Rs 1,000 with cancellation of licence for three months — the same as the fine for jumping a red light or not securing the seat belt while driving.
* Talking on a mobile phone while driving will attract a penalty of Rs 5,000, up from Rs 1,000.
* Compensation to victims of road accidents under No Fault Liability has been fixed at Rs 10 lakh in case of death and Rs 5 lakh in case of grievous hurt, up from earlier provisions of Rs 50,000 and Rs 25,000 respectively while removing the Central government’s authority to prescribe the compensation.
* In case of hit-and-run accidents, compensation will be Rs 2 lakh in case of death and Rs 50,000 in case of injury.
* The Ministry has also agreed to the Parliamentary Standing Committee’s recommendation to remove the cap on third party liability of insurance firms. The initial proposal was to limit the insurers’ liability to a maximum compensation payment of Rs 10 lakh in case of death and Rs 5 lakh for injury.
While tightening rules related to traffic, issue of driving licences and vehicle registration has been linked to Aadhaar and vehicle registration by authorised automobile dealers. The Ministry declined to accept the Committee’s recommendation that this provision should be made optional to be decided by the states. The Centre will also set up a National Register for vehicles and driving licences, issuing a unique registration number to weed out duplication. The Act also empowers the Centre to recall vehicles whose components or engine do not meet standards. A manufacturer can be penalised up to Rs 500 crore.