The Motor Vehicles Amendment Act has waded into controversy with multiple states accusing the Centre of burdening the common man with heavy fines. The Act, which came into effect from September 1, aims at stricter punishment for violation of traffic regulations and to bring discipline on roads.
What are the new fines under the Motor Vehicles Act, 2019
The government has notified 63 provisions of the Motor Vehicles Amendment Act 2019, including the ones dealing with enhanced penalties for various traffic offences, from September 1. The new rules also enhance the penalty for drunken driving to imprisonment up to 6 months and/or fine up to Rs 10,000 for first offence and imprisonment up to 2 years and/or fine of Rs 15,000 for the second offence. Besides, the penalty for driving without a license will be increased from up to Rs 500 to Rs 5,000. Fine for not wearing a seatbelt would attract a fine of Rs 1,000 as against Rs 100 at present. The over-speeding penalty has been increased from Rs 400 to Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000.
Many state governments, including the BJP-ruled Gujarat, are not convinced by the provisions of hefty fines. Many state governments have formed committees to study the Act and are looking for ways to tweak it around.
Here is a list of states which have not implemented the Motor Vehicles Amendment Act.
The Kerala government on September 16 put on hold the new Motor Vehicles Act. The CPI(M) led state government will write to the central government over the hefty fines. Opposition leader in the state Assembly, Ramesh Chennithala had earlier alleged that the BJP-led NDA government had “unilaterally” imposed the huge fines without consulting the state governments. CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said the stiff penalties were “unscientific” and would result in corruption.
The Congress-led government in Madhya Pradesh said the new law will be implemented once people are made aware of the hiked fees. “Now when Rs 250-500 is the fine for traffic violations, I get 25-50 calls on my phone (of people apparently asking for help). If fines are hiked to Rs 5000, I will have to switch off my phone,” MP Law and Legal Affairs Minister PC Sharma said. State transport minister Govind Singh Rajput stated that a committee would examine the penalties.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik directed officials not to enforce provisions of the new Motor Vehicles Act aggressively for three months. The move comes two days after scores of people, who were fined for violating the new traffic rules, clashed with a police team in Bhubaneswar. The BJD has decided to write to the Centre seeking some amendments in the Act. Earlier, the Odisha government had relaxed penalties for the violation of Pollution under Control (PUC) vehicles, following an outcry on hefty fines.
The Congress government in Chhattisgarh is also yet to implement the new penalty provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act. “It should not have hefty fines…The state government is examining in which form the act can be implemented. We are also looking at whether the state government can make amendments to it,” Home Minister Tamradhwaj Sahu said.
Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy said the hefty fines will be imposed only after the government first generates awareness among the public on the provisions of the Act.
Congress-ruled Rajasthan is also looking for ways to lighten the heavy fines imposed in the new Motor Vehicles Act. Calling the penalties, a decision made in “haste,” Rajasthan Transport Minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas said, “Penalties should be such that people are fearful but can also pay (the fine).”
The BJP-ruled Gujarat announced a steep cut in penalties, in some cases by up to Rs 4,000. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said his government has no interest in “harassing people” by levying steep fines or “dragging court cases” for years, but it takes safety of people as its top priority.
In Punjab, old fines continue to prevail in case of any traffic violation. “There is no denying the fact that traffic rule violation is the major cause of road accidents which claims innocent lives every day and commuters must be hammered down to comply to the traffic rules, but at the same time citizen must not be reel under the burden of huge penalties. For the time being the provisions of the amended Motor Vehicle rules would not be applicable in the state,” Punjab Transport Minister Razia Sultana said.
In Telangana, a committee has been formed by the state government to study the Act and the recommendations of the panel would be sent to the Transport Minister and Chief Minister for approval. Until then, the new set of penalties would not be implemented in the state. The Hyderabad traffic police has, however, started a campaign to educate the public about the provisions of the Act soon after it was passed by Parliament in August.
Stating that they are not on the “same page over the fine,” with the Centre, the West Bengal government has also not enforced the new penalties in the state.
The state government is yet to implement the penalties under the new Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act. Last week, Transport Minister Diwakar Raote said that while his department has made an administrative decision, it is awaiting the opinion of the Law and Judiciary Department before announcing the modified fines.
States which have expressed reservation
In Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said states do not have any discretion in the implementation of the Motor Vehicles Act but the city government was studying how the other states were saying they would “not implement the new law.” The chief minister said there are some categories of offences where states can only decide compounding fee, but in most of the categories, a challan will directly be settled through the court. “However, we are studying how other states are saying that they will not implement it,” he also said.
The government’s intention is not to impose heavy penalties but to bring road discipline among people, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said, defending the new Motor Vehicles Act. “The government does not wish to fine people. A time should come that nobody has to pay such fines,” said the Road Transport and Highways minister who has been piloting the strict penal provisions in the new Act for the past three years before the Bill finally got passed in Parliament earlier this year after multiple attempts.
Stressing on the need to have strict penalties for traffic norms violations, Gadkari said, “In the country, there are 5 lakh accidents happening each year, around 1.5 lakh people die. Should we not save these lives? If there is no respect for the law of the land and there is no fear as well, then it is not a good thing.”