Two years after its introduction in the Parliament, the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019, to amend the 30-year old motor vehicle law to improve road safety, raise penalties for traffic violations, curb RTO (Regional Transport Office) corruption and other measures to transform the transport sector. The Bill got 108 votes in favour and 13 against it.
The Bill, which was passed with three amendments, will now go back to the Lok Sabha. It was already passed by the Lower House on July 23.
In his reply to the members after discussion on the Bill, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari dispelled the apprehensions raised by some of the members that the proposed law encroached upon state powers and encouraged the corporate sector to take over the transport sector. He assured the members that the Centre had no intention, directly or indirectly, to encroach upon the powers of the states. He added that the much-needed amendments will improve road safety, facilitate citizens in their dealings with transport departments, strengthen rural transport, public transport and last mile connectivity through automation, computerisation and online services.
Under the amendments, the minimum penalty for driving without licence has been increased to Rs 5,000 from Rs 500 while the fine for driving despite disqualification has been increased to Rs 10,000. Also, driving without wearing a helmet will attract a penalty of Rs 1,000.
A new provision has been added to the Bill with regard to underage drivers under which the guardians or vehicle owners shall be held guilty in case of an offence by a juvenile. A fine of Rs 25,000 with three years imprisonment will be imposed and the juvenile will be tried under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act while the registration of the vehicle will be cancelled.
Over speeding will now attract a fine of Rs 1,000 for light motor vehicle and Rs 2,000 for medium passenger vehicle while not wearing seat belt will cost Rs 1,000.
Another new provision added is a fine of Rs 10,000 for not providing passage to emergency vehicles.
The Bill also provides for a National Road Safety Board, to be created by the Central government through a notification. The Board will advise the Central and state governments on all aspects of road safety and traffic management, including standards of motor vehicles, registration and licensing of vehicles, standards for road safety and promotion of new vehicle technology.
To help road accident victims, a good samaritan guideline has been incorporated in the Bill. The Bill defines a good Samaritan as a person who renders emergency medical or non-medical assistance to a victim at the scene of an accident, and provides for rules to prevent harassment of such a person.
Also, the maximum penalty for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs has been increased from Rs 2,000 to Rs 10,000. If a vehicle manufacturer fails to comply with the motor vehicle standards, the penalty will be of up to Rs 100 crore, or imprisonment of up to one year, or both.
For overloading of two-wheelers, the fine was earlier Rs 100 but will be increased to Rs 2000 along with disqualification of licence for three months.
Moreover, the driving training process has been strengthened to enable faster issuance of transport licence. This will help in reducing the shortage of commercial drivers in the country.
The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019, is based on the recommendations of the Group of Transport Ministers (GoM) of states constituted by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to address the issue of road safety and to improve the facilitation of the citizens while dealing with transport departments.
The Bill to amend the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 was first presented in Lok Sabha in 2016. It was then sent to a Parliamentary Standing Committee which vetted it and gave certain recommendations. Giving its report in 2017, the Committee agreed to most of the provisions of the Bill. Subsequently, it was tabled in the Lok Sabha and cleared on April 10, 2017. The Bill was then introduced in the Rajya Sabha and referred to a Select Committee.
The Bill, however, did not get clearance from the Rajya Sabha and lapsed with the dissolution of 16th Lok Sabha. It was introduced again in the Lok Sabha and passed on July 23 after discussions.