Mumbai: India’s road transport ministry has lowered the proposed penalties for carmakers in the latest draft of the road safety bill that is to replace British-colonial-era laws governing the world’s deadliest roads.

Penalties on automakers for producing vehicles with defects have been cut to Rs50,000 ($802) per car from the earlier proposed Rs500,000, according to the fourth draft of the bill, posted on the ministry’s website. India’s best-selling car, the Maruti Suzuki Alto, costs Rs282,694.

“The latest draft has watered down the penalties and will fail to be a deterrent," said Piyush Tewari, the founder of New Delhi-based road safety advocacy group SaveLIFE Foundation that has been campaigning for stricter laws.

The current rules, which were first passed a century ago and revised in 1939 and 1988, don’t mandate recalls or crash test for vehicles. Safety advocates have pushed successive administrations to revamp the laws to cut traffic fatalities in India, which accounts for 15% of road deaths in the world despite having only 1% of the motor vehicles.

The penalties proposed in the first draft have been “rationalized" after feedback from the general public and other stakeholders, the road ministry said in a statement on 2 April. Still the penalties proposed in the latest draft are higher than those in the existing law, it said.

The latest draft has also modified a clause on recall of vehicles with defects. While the earlier version required a recall if 100 owners of a model complained, the new one says the number will be specified by an authority proposed to be set up on the lines of the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Other penalties for offenses ranging from jumping a red light to causing death in an accident have also been reduced. While the earlier draft mandated a minimum seven-year prison sentence and a fine of Rs300,000 in an accident resulting in the death of a child, the new proposal reduces the prison term to at least one year and the fine to Rs50,000.

The proposals will need approval of the Cabinet as well as gain majority backing in both houses of Parliament before becoming law.

India’s auto manufacturers group wants specific rules to be drafted by the national authority, according to Vishnu Mathur, director general of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.

“Otherwise tomorrow if you want to change certain clauses it will require an amendment that will need approval of Parliament," he said. “We also recommended certain fixes for errors and better definitions for things like defects." Bloomberg

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