[Click here to join the campaign by SaveLIFE Foundation in association with The Logical Indian and send a letter to our Rajya Sabha MPs for a stronger road safety law.]
It is no secret that India’s roads are among the most unsafe in the world. So much so that in our country the simple and most basic act of going to school has become hazardous – as in Etah earlier this year.
On January 19 this year, 25 people including 18 children lost their lives when their school bus met with a road crash in Etah district of Uttar Pradesh.
In the past decade, over 13 lakh Indians have lost their lives and another 55 lakh have been seriously injured in road crashes. Every day, 400 Indians lose their lives on the country’s roads, government data shows – a number that is steadily rising (there was a 4.6% rise in 2015 over 2014).
These numbers are astounding and should have prompted our policymakers to recognise this as an epidemic and taken corrective action long time back. But it never happened – until now.
The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988’s amendment needs to be passed by the Rajya Sabha immediately
One of the main reasons for escalating bloodshed on Indian roads is the existing legislation governing road safety in India: the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. This legislation has largely failed to ensure safety in transit for Indians, more specifically for the vulnerable road users. As the current law lacks a comprehensive and administrative framework for road safety, all efforts to contain soaring road crash fatalities have remained unsustainable so far.
On August 9, 2016, the Government of India introduced the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (MVAB) to fill the legislative gaps that keep Indians from being safe on the roads. This Bill was unanimously passed by Lok Sabha on April 10, 2016 and now awaits passage in the Rajya Sabha.
The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 can be read here.
The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (MVAB) can be read here.
Features of MVAB
On 31 March 2017, the Cabinet approved amendments to the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
The amendments are stringent on several fronts, to ensure further safety for the citizens. Some of the new provisions prescribed in the bill are 100% e-governance, checking for fake driving licenses and vehicle thefts, and heavy fines for traffic violators.
The penalty for drunk driving has been increased five times to Rs 10,000. Further, the driver can be booked for a non-bailable offence with imprisonment of up to 10 years, if such a (drunk) driving leads to the death of another person.
These changes in the Act demonstrate that the Ministry of Road Transport has sought “appropriate action” from the Ministry of Home Affairs to hold such drivers liable for culpable homicide under Section 299 of the Indian Penal Code, which states: “Whoever causes death by doing an act with the intention of causing death, or with the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, or with the knowledge that he is likely by such act to cause death, commits the offence of culpable homicide.”
Moreover, in the case of accidents, drivers will not be booked under the provisions of negligence but their action will be considered as a premeditated commitment of the crime, which will be punishable under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code, depending on the consequences of the accident.
As reported by Hindustan Times, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari said that the amendments are an effort to eliminate corruption in the sector. “No bogus driving licenses would be made and there would be no theft of the vehicles once there is e-governance,” the minister said.
Various other highlights in the amended Act include the following:
- A fine has been set for driving by a minor. The registration of the vehicle will be cancelled for car owners who are found guilty of handing over vehicles to juveniles. Further, in the case of an accident caused by the juvenile, his/her family will be fined up to Rs 25,000, with or without imprisonment of up to three years.
- The amendments also include the provision of protective headgear for children above the age of 4 years, while riding a two-wheeler with a check on the quality and standard of the headgear.
- A fine of Rs. 1,000 will be imposed on drivers for not wearing a helmet while driving, in addition to the cancellation of licence for three months. The same penalty applies for jumping a red light or not securing the seat belt while driving.
- The penalty for talking on the mobile phone while driving has been increased to Rs 5,000, which was previously Rs 1,000.
- The compensation to victims of road accidents under No-Fault Liability has been increased to Rs 10 lakh (previously Rs 50,000) in the case of death, and Rs 5 lakh (previously Rs 25,000) in the case of grievous hurt. This removes the authority of the Central Government to determine the compensation.
- For hit-and-run accident cases, the compensation to the victims will be Rs 2 lakh in case of death, and Rs 50,000 for injury. Additionally, a Motor Vehicle Accident Fund will be set to provide compulsory insurance cover to all road users in India for certain types of accidents.
- The Ministry has further agreed to remove the cap on third party liability of insurance firms, as per the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee. The initial proposal included a cap on the insurers’ liability to a maximum compensation payment of Rs 10 lakh for death and Rs 5 lakh for injury.
- Furthermore, a penalty of ₹10,000 has been introduced for ‘not providing way for emergency vehicles’.
- In order to smoothen the process of registration and licensing, the bill proposes to create a National Register for Driving Licence and a National Register for Vehicle registration through “Vahan” and “Sarathi” platforms.
- A maximum time limit of six months has been specified for an application of compensation to the Claims Tribunal with regard to road accidents.
- The bill provides for a National Road Safety Board to be developed by the Central Government through a notification. The board would offer advice to the Central and State Governments on all aspects of road safety and traffic management.
- It grants the State Governments power to specify a multiplier, not less than one and not greater than ten, to be applied to each fine under this Act and such modified fine.
- For faulty design, construction or poor maintenance of roads leading to accidents, the contractors, consultants and civic agencies will be held accountable.
- Alterations in vehicles have also been provided to enable them more suitable for differently-abled people.
The amended Act has provisioned the facilitation of services for delivery to citizens and transporters. The issue of driving licenses, including learner’s licence and vehicle registration, has been linked to Aadhaar. The vehicle registration has further been linked to authorised automobile dealers.
The Centre will also set up a National Register for vehicles and driving licenses that will issue a unique registration number to prevent duplication with added security measures to avoid malpractices. The Act also empowers the Centre to recall vehicles whose components or engines do not meet required standards, with the manufacturer receiving a penalty of up to Rs. 500-crore.
The Logical Indian take
The Logical Indian encourages all citizens to abide by the various traffic rules laid down by the government in an effort to improve safety and security in the country.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), comprehensive legislation which incorporates strict, appropriate penalties, backed by consistent, sustained enforcement and public education, has been proven to be a strong catalyst for changing behaviour, norms and public perception about road safety.
MVAB does exactly that by providing for stricter rationalised penalties, accountability of road concessionaires and engineers for faulty road design, child safety, safeguards for vulnerable road users, uniform licensing and many more reformative provisions which shall strengthen road safety in India.
Road safety activists representing scores of affected families from across the country have launched the “Road Safety at Risk” campaign. The campaign website, www.roadsafetyatrisk.in, allows citizens to send a letter to the MPs requesting them to ensure smooth passage of the Bill.
Hopefully, the voices of Indian masses will reach the Rajya Sabha MPs and they will act for millions whose lives are imperilled every day on Indian roads.
Click here to join the campaign by SaveLIFE Foundation in association with The Logical Indian and send a letter to our Rajya Sabha MPs for a stronger road safety law.