New Delhi: India is a step away from a game-changing legislation that will revamp the laws governing transportation in the country, with the Lok Sabha on Monday passing the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
The changes are significant as they will, for the first time, acknowledge the fundamental reordering of mobility with the introduction of laws recognizing app-based taxi operators.
The amendment to the motor vehicles Act will now be introduced in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday. If the House does not suggest any further changes, then it will be moved to the President for his assent.
The changes on the anvil include linking driving licences and vehicle registration with a person’s Aadhaar number, stringent penalties for traffic violations, protecting good Samaritans and making road contractors liable in case of accidents due to faulty road design.
Replying to the debate in the Lok Sabha on Monday, minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari said that the new law will make it difficult to obtain bogus driving licences and the proposed e-registration of vehicles will discourage theft.
An all-India register for vehicles and driving licences is in the offing to ensure zero duplication. Making vehicle registration and driving licences Aadhaar-based will help check registration of stolen vehicles. The move will also help in portability—that is, transfer of vehicle registration from one state to another.
Gadkari said once the changes are enacted, it would be impossible for anyone, including politicians, to obtain a driving licence without a test.
The Motor Vehicles Act is a three-decade-old law that has outlived its utility on several fronts.
The proposed law specifically targets traffic offenders with stringent penal provisions and has identified priority areas for improving road safety.
Stricter penalties are proposed for high-risk offences such as drunken driving, dangerous driving, overloading, and non-adherence to safety norms by drivers (such as non-usage of seat belts and helmets).
The bill was passed by a voice vote after several amendments suggested by the opposition were rejected, including one moved by a Communist Party of India (Marxist) member on enhancing the compensation in case of accidents.
Experts welcomed the move. “The new Act will be a comprehensive piece of legislation dealing with all aspects related to safe and sustainable mobility in the country," said Abdul Majeed, partner and national auto practice leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Vishnu Mathur, director general of lobby group Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, said, “Liability is being fixed at every stage, which means everyone has got their share of responsibility to ensure road safety. It is pretty much an integrated approach. It will make basic changes to the way people look at road safety."