The Union cabinet on Monday approved proposed changes to the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill that aim to address crucial issues such as road safety, with stiff penalties for violation of rules, strengthening the public transportation system and curbing corruption.
Towards safety, the proposed amendment seeks higher penalty in case of violations such as driving without a licence, speeding, dangerous driving, drunk driving and vehicles that don’t have a permit.
According to the amendment, the penalty for drunk driving has been raised five times to ₹10,000. If caught speeding or racing, violators may have to cough up ₹5,000—a tenfold jump from current provisions.
The proposed amendment also seeks to ensure that people who come forward to help out road accident victims are not harassed. Besides, the bill caps the maximum liability for third party insurance in case of an accident at ₹10 lakh if there is a death and ₹5 lakh in case of a serious injury. Ride-hailing firms may have to shell out up to ₹1 lakh if they violate licencing conditions.
Once passed, the new law is expected to make the registration process for new vehicles simpler and will make Aadhaar mandatory for obtaining a driving licence and vehicle registration. The validity of a driving licence is also proposed to be increased.
The road transport and highways ministry is expected to present the bill in the ongoing Parliament session.
The bill was approved by the Lok Sabha in 2017, but failed to muster support in the Rajya Sabha. It now has to get approval from both the Houses. The bill aims to amend over five dozen sections and introduce over 20 new ones.
According to the road transport and highways ministry, half a million accidents are reported in India every year, in which 150,000 people lose their lives.
Under the current law, a driving licence is valid for 20 years until a person is 50 years old, after which the licence is valid for five years.
The new law proposes to add various age categories, with varying validity of license. For instance, the validity of the driving licence will be 10 years if the licence holder is between 30-50 years, compared with 20 years currently.
The bill also has a provision that allows the c entre to recall vehicles, in case a defect in the vehicle is causing harm to the environment or the people.
The centre will also have to frame a national transportation policy that will look into issues such as road permits schemes and overall framework of transport system.
The cabinet also approved amendments to Consumer Protection Bill, which aims to protect and promote consumer rights by setting up a central consumer protection authority. The proposed changes in the law will provide a mechanism for resolution of complaints pertaining to defective goods or unsatisfactory services.
The consumer protection authority will have an investigation wing, which will conduct inquiry based on complaints received.
The Airport Economic Regulatory Authority of India Bill also received the cabinet’s nod. The proposed amendment is expected to change the definition of a major airport by increasing its threshold to 3.5 million annual passengers from 1.5 million.
According to the bill, for large airports, there will be a separate authority to fix tariff charges every five years.
AERA was constituted to regulate rising competition in the aviation industry and to enable level playing field across different kinds and categories of airports.