The country may have an entirely new-look Motor Vehicles Act in place if the Bill passed by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday gets the nod in the Upper House as well. The government has expressed its desire to make qualitative changes to the way the road use ecosystem functions. Among the highlights of the proposed changes are stiffer penalties for offences like drunken driving, higher compensation for road accident victims and lesser human interaction at the licence issuing stages to weed out corruption.
The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was piloted in the House by the Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadhkari. The minister assured the state governments that the Centre will not trample upon their rights in evolving a holistic road transport policy that can be implemented across the country.
Here are 10 things to know:
- The victims of road accidents will be provided with free medical treatment within the golden hour (the first critical hour).
- If there is a Good Samaritan who comes to the help of the accident victims, there will be no harassment of those individuals from civil or criminal proceedings and the Central government can frame rules for their protection.
- The liability cap for road accident victims under third-party insurance is being bumped up 10 times from Rs 50,000 to Rs 5 lakh. On the penalties side, the fine for driving under the influence of alcohol will be Rs 10,000 (Rs 2,000 now) and there will be similar hikes in other fine amounts too, the ultimate objective being to act as a deterrent. The penalty for hit-and-run cases is being increased eight-fold to Rs 2 lakh in case of death and Rs 50,000 in case of physical injury from Rs 25,000 and Rs 12,500 respectively.
- The government says it will have to right to ask automobile manufacturers to recall particular models of vehicles if it causes harm to the environment in any manner.
- On the perennial issue of corruption in the issuing of driving licences which has led to over 30% of the driving licences in the country being fake, the bill seeks to introduce technology to reduce human interface and the tenure of the licences will be increased as well. The minister told the Parliament that technology will be used extensively in the sector to bring about improvements. The period allowed for renewal of licences will be increased as well.
- If the licence is suspended / revoked under Section 19, the driver will have to undergo ‚Äúdriving refresher training course‚ÄĚ for reviving the licence and traffic offences can be compounded under Section 200.
- By amending Section 200, punishment in the form of ‚ÄėCommunity Service‚Äô can be given for traffic violations. The newly proposed Section 2(4A) Act defines "Community Service" as unpaid work which a person is required to perform as a punishment for an offence committed under this Act.
- A section has been introduced where the liability falls on the contractor, concessionaire or designated authority if their failure to follow the stipulated design and standards leads to death or injury.
- In case of accident caused by a juvenile, the newly proposed Section 199A imposes liability on the guardian or owner of the vehicle that is involved in the mishap.
- A newly introduced clause states that the claim petition has to be filed within six months from the date of the accident. The original Act passed in 1988 had a similar provision but it was removed as per the 1994 amendment following which a claim could have been filed at any time following the accident, without any time-limit. But the earlier provision is now being brought back.
The bill now needs to go through the Rajya Sabha where the government does not enjoy a direct majority and some manoeuvring may be required to make this bill into a law.