Centre Warns States Against Lowering Traffic Penalties, Asks To Comply With New Motor Vehicle Law
In an advisory issued by the centre on Monday, it has stated that state governments do not have the powers to modify or reduce the penalties for traffic violations under the amended Motor Vehicles Act.
It also stated that the Centre could use its powers under Article 256 to ensure proper compliance with the law enacted by Parliament.
The amended MV Act has increased the penalties for all traffic violations. In the case of drunk driving, the hike has now been increased between 500% to 1000% to ensure safe driving and reduce casualties.
BJP-led Gujarat government was the first state to alter the hefty penalties for traffic violations under the MVA. It decided not to make helmets necessary for pillion riders. The transport ministry had then said it would go through “legal scrutiny.”
Following this, several other states proposed to amend the penalties listed in the law, triggering the Centre to decide if the states had the power to tweak penalties.
In a letter sent by the ministry of transport to all states on Monday, the ministry pointed at the top law officer Attorney General KC Venugopal who established that states cannot amend any provision of a law passed by Parliament unless the state gets the approval of the President.
“Ministry of Law and Justice has tendered their advice after seeking the opinion of Attorney General of India. The Attorney General has inter alia observed as under:- The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (as amended by the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2O19) is a Parliamentary legislation, the state Governments cannot pass any law/ take executive action to lower the penalty fine below that prescribed under the statutory provisions of the Motor vehicles Act unless the assent of the President is obtained to such state law,” the letter read.
“The next question that arises is as to the powers of the Union of India in case of the failure of the state governments to implement the amending act in accordance with its own terms. Reference for this purpose may be made to Article 256, which authorizes the Union of India to issue directions to a State as may be necessary for that purpose. The disobedience of these directions could well attract the provisions of Article 356 of the Constitution of India, and one could, therefore, proceed on the basis that the central laws would implicitly be obeyed by the state Governments,” KC Venugopal wrote in the letter.
Several states opted to implement lower penalties or delay their notification after the public outcry over the law that imposed hefty fines.
“The objective of MV Act, 2019 inter alia for enhancement of penalties for offences is ensuring greater compliance and enhancing deterrence for violation of traffic rules which is intended to provide for better Road safety resulting in the reduction of accidents and fatalities on the roads. It is requested to implement the provisions of the MV Act, 2019, in light of the observations received through the Ministry of Law,” the ministry wrote.
India is a signatory to the United Nation’s Brasilia Declaration with the aim of reducing road fatalities by 50% by 2020. The new penalties came into effect on September 1, but several governments, including Delhi, are yet to notify the new rates.