Context: the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019
- The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha on July 15, 2019 by the Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Mr. Nitin Gadkari. The Bill seeks to amend the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 to provide for road safety.
- The Act provides for grant of licenses and permits related to motor vehicles, standards for motor vehicles, and penalties for violation of these provisions.
What is the need for amendment?
- Accidents: Officially, India sees more than five lakh road accidents a year leading to 1.5 lakh deaths. By passing the bill accidents could come down by half if the provisions of this Bill are implemented.
- Corruption: the corruption and manipulations levels are very high in road transport departments and vehicle fitness tests.
- Drivers: More than 50% of drivers are driving the heavy vehicles without proper licenses and main reason for the fatalities
The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) bill:
- Compensation for road accident victims: The central government makes a scheme for providing interim relief to claimants seeking compensation under third party insurance. The Bill increases the minimum compensation for hit and run cases as follows: (I) in case of death, from Rs 25,000 to two lakh rupees, and (II) in case of grievous injury, from Rs 12,500 to Rs 50,000.
- The central government will develop a scheme for cashless treatment of road accident victims during golden hour. The Bill defines golden hour as the time period of up to one hour following a traumatic injury, during which the likelihood of preventing death through prompt medical care is the highest.
- Compulsory insurance: The Bill requires the central government to constitute a Motor Vehicle Accident Fund, to provide compulsory insurance cover to all road users in India. It will be utilized for:
- Treatment of persons injured in road accidents as per the golden hour scheme,
- Compensation to representatives of a person who died in a hit and run accident,
- Compensation to a person grievously hurt in a hit and run accident, and
- Compensation to any other persons as prescribed by the central government.
- Good samaritans: 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. The assistance must have been (I) in good faith, (II) voluntary, and (III) without the expectation of any reward.
- Such a person will not be liable for any civil or criminal action for any injury to or death of an accident victim, caused due to their negligence in providing assistance to the victim.
- Recall of vehicles: The Bill allows the central government to order for recall of motor vehicles if a defect in the vehicle may cause damage to the environment, or the driver, or other road users.
- The manufacturer of the recalled vehicle will be required to: (I) reimburse the buyers for the full cost of the vehicle or (II) replaces the defective vehicle with another vehicle with similar or better specifications.
- National Transportation Policy: The central government may develop a National Transportation Policy, in consultation with state governments. The Policy will: (I) establish a planning framework for road transport, (II) develop a framework for grant of permits and (III) specify priorities for the transport system, among other things.
- Road Safety Board: The Bill 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.
- Offences and penalties: The Bill increases penalties for several offences under the Act. For example, 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 motor vehicle standards, the penalty will be a fine of up to Rs 100 crore, or imprisonment of up to one year, or both. If a contractor fails to comply with road design standards, the penalty will be a fine of up to one lakh rupees. The central government may increase fines mentioned under the Act every year by up to 10%.
- Taxi aggregators: The Bill defines aggregators as digital intermediaries or market places which can be used by passengers to connect with a driver for transportation purposes (taxi services). These aggregators will be issued licenses by state further; they must comply with the Information Technology Act, 2000.
- However, implementation may not be a smooth ride. Road transports being a subject on the Concurrent List, State governments are also free to make their own laws and rules.
- The fact that this Bill was drafted based on the recommendations of the Group of Transport Ministers (GoM) from 18 States and different political parties should aid in all-India implementation.
- Through repositories such as ‘Vahan’ and ‘Sarathy’, mandatory information on vehicles and ownership as well as road transport related services are gradually being moved online. State governments should ensure transparency and provide a hassle-free experience for citizens at the Regional Transport Offices.