[Answered] Discuss salient features of Motor Vehicle amendment act, 2019. Critically analyse its objectives and significance.

Demand of the question
Introduction. Contextual Introduction.
Body. Salient features of the MVA, 2019. Issues with the amendment.
Conclusion. Way forward.

With growing urbanisation and rising incomes, the number of motor vehicles in India has been increasing steadily. An increase in the number of vehicles on roads, led to an increase in the number of road accidents. The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019 seeks to amend the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 to address various such issues like road safety, third party insurance, vehicle’s health, and compensation for victims of road accidents.

Salient Features of the Bill to ensure safer roads:

  1. Road Safety: The Bill proposes to increase penalties for traffic violations. It will act as a deterrent.
    • It proposes stricter provisions for offences such as drunken driving, juvenile driving, driving without licence, over-speeding, dangerous driving and overloading.
    • It also proposes stricter provisions for driving without helmets.
  2. Vehicle Fitness: The Bill includes a provision that mandates automated fitness testing for vehicles. This will improve road safety by removing unfit vehicles.
    • The motor vehicles bill also proposes penalty for deliberate violation of safety and environmental regulations.
    • The bill proposes regulation of the process of testing and certification of automobiles.
    • It also proposes to bring agencies issuing automobile approvals to be brought under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and vehicle testing standards to be set.
  3. Environmental and road health: The Bill mandates the recall of defective motor vehicles if the defect may cause a threat to the environment, or the driver or other people on the road. In such a case, the recalled vehicle’s manufacturer will have to:
    • Reimburse the vehicle owner the full cost of the vehicle.
    • Replace the defective vehicle with another vehicle of similar make.
  4. Road Safety Board: The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019 provides for the setting up of a National Road Safety Board by the central government. The National Road Safety Board will advise the central and state governments on all aspects of road safety and traffic management including
    • registration and licensing of vehicles,
    • standards of motor vehicles,
    • standards for road safety and
    • promotion of new vehicle technology.
  5. Protection of Good Samaritan: The bill incorporates Good Samaritan guidelines in order to help road accident victims. The Bill defines good samaritan as a person who provides emergency medical or non-medical assistance to a road accident victim and provides rules to prevent harassment of such a person. 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.
  6. Compensation for road accident victims: The central government will develop a scheme for cashless treatment of road accident victims during golden hour (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.
  7. 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.
  8. National Transportation Policy: The central government may develop a National Transportation Policy, in consultation with state governments. The Policy will establish a planning framework for road transport and will specify priorities for the transport system.
  9. 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 governments.  Further, they must comply with the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Issues and challenges with the amendment:

  1. With a Fund already existing to provide compensation for hit and run accidents, the purpose of the new Accident Fund is unclear.
  2. While the penalties for contravening provisions of the proposed scheme on interim relief to accident victims are specified in the Bill, the offences that would warrant such penalties have not been specified.  It may be argued that imposing penalties without knowing the nature of the offences is unreasonable.
  3. There will be implementation challenges at all-India level.
  4. Road transport being a subject on the Concurrent List, State governments are also free to make their own laws and rules. Some states feel that the amendment infringes upon the rights of the states.
  5. For effective monitoring of traffic violations and accidents and ensuring that the perpetrators don’t go scot-free, electronic surveillance is essential that needs installation of CCTVs, Speed guns, and other equipments.This could involve substantial investment, and it is not clear who will bear the cost.
  6. Laxity of vehicle-manufacturers in implementing safety features is also a concern.
  7. States also have concerns about their powers being curtailed in the Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Bill.

The Standing Committee on Transport had observed that the majority of accidents being caused due to driver’s fault may be erroneous. Other reasons for road accidents include fault of drivers of other vehicles, defect in condition of motor vehicle etc. Motor Vehicle Bill, 2019 seek to address these issues through stringent penalties and provisions.

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