Friday, 26 January 2018

Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2016 :- A Step towards better legislative framework for road safety in India.

Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2016

Road accidents in India take more lives than natural disasters and diseases do and these figures are on the rise. 1.5 lakh people fall victim every year to India's killer roads. With these numbers on the rise, and an outdated existing law system to safeguard the stakeholders who use Indian roads, change is essential.

Enter Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2016. With the aim of addressing this problem, it is an attempt to create an exhaustive and comprehensive legislative framework for road safety in India. With a proposal of 68 amendments to 233 sections and the insertion of 28 new sections in the 1988 Motor Vehicles Act, the bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha by the Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari, in August 2016. 
It unleashes radical reforms in the transport sector by ensuring 100% e-governance, checking bogus driving licenses and vehicle thefts, slapping heavy penalty on traffic violators and protecting the good samaritan. It was approved by the Lok Sabha in April of this year.

The bill seeks to save lives by ushering in radical reforms in the motor vehicles law to slap heavy penalty on traffic violators, protecting good samaritans and making vehicle-makers responsible for design defects to cut road accidents.

The basic aim of the bill is to save human lives, as a whopping five lakh accidents take place every year claiming around 1.5 lakh lives across the country. The bill seeks to make services like issuance of license totally transparent and online and provides for punitive action against officials in case of delay in issuing of the document to eligible applicants. Under the new system, every one will have to go to the license issuing authorities under a uniform procedure and if the license is not issued , then the RTO will have to face action. A learner’s license can be availed online sitting at home.

96% believe that passage of the Bill would help meet the UN mandate to reduce road accidents up to 50 per cent by 2020, according to a survey conducted by Consumer Voice. 97% people feel the Bill should be supported by all the parties since it was important to bring down fatalities due to road accidents, currently the highest in the world at 1.5 lakh annually. As already mentioned, the Bill has been passed by the Lok Sabha, and now Rajya Sabha needs to give it a nod. It will turn into law after the President's approval. Needless to say, it is a very necessary step towards road safety. Changes take time, and this one seems worth the wait. 

PS - For the curious ones, here are the main proposals of the Bill. 

1) It makes Aadhaar mandatory for getting a driving licence and vehicle registration. 

2) For deaths in hit-and-run cases, the government will provide a compensation of Rs 2 lakh or more to the victim's family. Currently, the amount is just Rs 25,000. 

3) In traffic violations by juveniles, the guardians or owner of the vehicle would be held responsibile unless they prove the offence was committed without their knowledge or they tried to prevent it. The registration of the motor vehicle in question will be cancelled. The juvenile will be tried under the Juvenile Justice Act. 

4) The bill has provision for protection of Good Samaritans. Those who come forward to help accident victims will be protected from civil or criminal liability. It will be optional for them to disclose their identity to the police or medical personnel. 

5) The minimum fine for drunk driving has been increased from Rs 2,000 to Rs 10,000. 

6) The fine for rash driving has been increased from Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000. 

7) Driving without a licence will attract a minimum fine of Rs 5,000 as against Rs 500 at present. 

8) The fine for over-speeding will go up from Rs 400 to Rs 1,000-2,000. 

9) Not wearing seatbelt would attract a fine of Rs 1,000 as against Rs 100 at present. 

10) Talking on a mobile phone while driving will attract a fine of Rs 5,000, up from Rs 1,000. 

11) A Motor Vehicle Accident Fund will provide compulsory insurance cover to all road users in India for certain types of accidents. 

12) It will be mandatory to alter vehicles to make them suitable for specially abled people. 

13) Contractors, consultants and civic agencies will be accountable for faulty design, construction or poor maintenance of roads leading to accidents. 

14) A time limit of six months has been specified for an application of compensation to the Claims Tribunal with regard to road accidents. 

15) The Bill removes the cap on liability for third-party insurance. The 2016 Bill had capped the maximum liability at Rs 10 lakh in case of death and Rs 5 lakh in case of grievous injury. 

16) The time limit for renewal of driving licence is increased from one month to one year before and after the expiry date. 

17) The government can recall vehicles whose components or engine do not meet the required standards. Manufacturers can be fined up to Rs 500 crore in case of sub-standard components or engine.

Pratyush Pandey
 IIT Delhi

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