Bengaluru: Kerala has joined states that are refusing to accept hefty fines on motorists as part of the amended Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019. However, officials are still trying to work out how to go about it.
Kerala will reduce the fines to as low as possible within the legal ambit of the Act, said Transport Secretary KR Jyothilal, who is a member of a panel that the ruling Communist government has put together to work out a solution. But, he admitted, there was lack of clarity on how this could be done.
“We have called for a meeting on 15 September, which will have representation from law enforcement and the legal office. We think in certain areas we have some flexibility, but in other areas we want to know the legal grounds before making a reduction," he said.
“The Centre has said states can decide on the quantum of reduction. But once the Centre has fixed a compound fine, say, up to ₹5,000, we will collect that ceiling amount. Otherwise, there will be accusations of arbitrary collection. Basically, in order to lessen the fine, we have to give some justification or else someone can go to court and challenge how we arrived at this figure," said Jyothilal.
“So we are waiting for the law department to clarify what can be done. There are some other fines where they have defined a range of fines, say, from ₹1,000 to ₹2,000. In those fines, we are planning to take the minimum amount as possible," he said.
In view of ongoing Onam celebrations, Kerala’s most important festival, the state has issued a notification asking the police to go soft on collecting the new fines and instead focus on creating awareness about the changes.
Both the ruling CPM and the main opposition Congress in Kerala had protested against the changes in Motor Vehicles Act, forcing the government’s hand on reducing the fines. On Wednesday, Transport Minister AK Saseendran told reporters that the state is likely to refrain from imposing the revised fines until further clarifications are available.
Since the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 came into force on September 1, the public is up in arms against the steep fines. Union highways minister Nitin Gadkari had said the states have the authority to revise fines. Gujarat, Karnataka and West Bengal are among the states that have announced a reduction in fines.
Besides stringent rules and stiff penalties, the Act provides for a 10% increase in fines every year.