With more states moving to reduce the quantum of traffic fines proposed in the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019, the Centre’s plan to improve road safety and discipline through hefty penalties may be in jeopardy.
A day after the Gujarat government announced a reduction in fines on “humanitarian grounds", other Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruled states such as Karnataka and Uttarakhand have decided to follow suit.
On Tuesday, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said the “base rate for the fines will be lower than the one proposed by the union government" and the revised fines will be implemented from September 16.
“Regarding the cut in penalties for violation of traffic rules under the motor vehicles act, we will get the orders of the Gujarat government. I have instructed our officials that we will follow that order here also. Mostly, in 2-3 days, like in Gujarat, here also we will try to cut penalties that are high," Press Trust of India quoted Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yedurappa as saying.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra, another BJP-ruled state, has urged the Centre to reconsider and reduce the stiff penalties proposed under the law.
Some non-BJP ruled states have also refused to toe the line. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has said she will not implement the higher penalties, calling them “harsh".
The move by some states to reduce fines comes amid rising furore over hefty penalties being imposed for violating traffic rules. Among several cases reported last week, a man driving a two-wheeler in Delhi was fined a whopping ₹23,000 for not wearing a helmet and not carrying vehicle-related documents. Similarly, a truck driver in Odisha was fined ₹86,500, but after a five-hour negotiation, reportedly, the driver paid ₹70,000 as fine.
On Wednesday, Mint reported that the hefty fines announced will act as ceiling, and states can revise these penalties within the threshold. Penalty provisions under the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 came into effect on 1 September. States can revise fines for more than two dozen provisions that are compoundable, but penalties for non-compoundable offences—where the nature of the offence is grave—cannot be revised.
Road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkri on Wednesday said states have the authority to revise fines. “However, people's lives should be saved…the government does not intend to garner revenue by increasing fines. The idea is to make roads safer and reduce the number of accidents. Are fines more important than someone's life? You won't be fined if you don't break the rules," the minister said.
The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 came into force 9 August. Besides stringent rules and stiff penalties, the Act also provides for a 10% increase in fines every year.