Home / Politics / Policy /  More states may move to revise hefty fines under new motor vehicles law

Hefty fines announced under the recently amended motor vehicles law are only the ceiling and states can revise these penalties within the threshold, said a senior road transport and highway ministry official.

Penalty provisions under the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 came into effect on 1 September. However, states can revise fines for more than two dozen provisions that are compoundable, the official said, adding that the penalties for non-compoundable offences—where the nature of the offence here is grave—cannot be revised.

This comes a day after the Gujarat government on Tuesday reduced fines stipulated in the new Act. Karnataka said it will follow suit on Wednesday.

The official said driving when physically or mentally unfit, racing, overspeeding, driving an unregistered vehicle and overloading of passengers are some of the provisions for which states have the power to revise the penalty. Non-compoundable offences include driving under the influence of alcohol, using a defective vehicle, failing to comply with road design and maintenance.

“Out of the 63 clauses (under the Motor Vehicles Act) that were implemented, there are 24 clauses and sub-clauses in which states have the power to decide the penalty. The penalty as suggested by the Centre acts as a ceiling," Piyush Tewari, founder of non-profit organization SaveLIFE Foundation said.

According to Tewari, there is a huge misunderstanding that states will be slashing the fines and creating their own penalties. States don’t have the power to slash penalties proposed by the Centre, barring these 24 clauses under the Motor Vehicles Act, he said.

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Sarvesh Kumar Sharma/Mint

Gujarat became the first Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled state to reduce traffic fines, with chief minister Vijay Rupani saying the “base rate for the fines will be lower than the one proposed by the Union government" and that the revised fines will be implemented from 16 September.

Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa on Wednesday said that it would follow the model adopted by Gujarat government that proposes to almost halve the fines for traffic violations as per the amendments of the Motor Vehicles Act.

“I have given directions that we will also follow the decision of the Gujarat government to bring down the quantum of fines," Yediyurappa said in Bengaluru. He added that the Karnataka government will seek more details from Gujarat and bring down the fines in the next few days.

Even as the Centre wants to impose hefty fines for violations in an effort to make Indian roads safer and reduce the number of accidents, there is a rising clamour for reducing these penalties, with some states now diluting fines for violations of traffic rules.

On Wednesday, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said she too will not implement the higher penalties, calling them “harsh". As many as 12 other states have not notified the revised penalties.

The problem for the Centre is that there now could be a political debate around the proposed higher fines that could disrupt the uniformity of fines suggested by the Act. Another worrying aspect is that Gujarat has removed the penalty on pillion riders failing to wear a helmet, which compromises road safety. This can lead to more states calling for exemptions," Amit Bhatt, director of integrated transport at WRI India, a research organization said.

The new penalty for driving without licence has been increased 10 times to 5,000, while the penalty for drunk driving has been increased five times to 10,000. Not giving way to emergency service vehicles too will attract a fine of 10,000. Besides, fines have been increased manifold for other violations such as driving without insurance-related documents, helmets, seatbelts, and carrying more passengers than the vehicle’s capacity.

Softening his stance on the stiff penalties, road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari on Wednesday said, “States can revise fines if they want. However, people’s lives should be saved."

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