Nitin Gadkari to call CMs on MV Act changes
The decision came on a day Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh joined a growing band of states that say the fines, which have increased in some cases by as much as tenfold, are too high.Updated: Sep 13, 2019 00:46 IST
Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari plans to call up chief ministers of states that have either slashed or refused to implement steep fines under the modified Motor Vehicles Act, a senior official said on Thursday, even as the ministry sought legal opinion on provisions under which some states have revised traffic penalties.
The decision came on a day Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh joined a growing band of states that say the fines, which have increased in some cases by as much as tenfold, are too high. Gujarat and Uttarakhand, both ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have already lowered fines while another BJP-administered state, Karnataka, has indicated it will slash penalties soon. Election-bound Maharashtra has put the new law on hold and West Bengal has said it will not enforce the new penalties.
Gadkari’s efforts aim to reverse this tide. “The minister will call each of the chief ministers and explain the benefits. While initially we saw lots of backlash on social media, now that too has changed,’’ said the ministry official quoted above. The secretary of the ministry will also call state bureaucrats to push through the implementation of the modified act.
A second senior official said the ministry had drafted a list of offences under which fines have been reduced by states, and sent it to the ministry of law to seek legal opinion on whether states have the jurisdiction to supersede the quantum of fines as mentioned in the modified Motor Vehicles Act. Offences for which states can make legislative changes are called “compoundable offences” – for which fines can be paid on the spot.
“Except for compoundable offences, states cannot change the fines notified under the Motor Vehicles Act. Even under compounding offences, there are certain fines which the states cannot amend below its capped limit. In fines where the minimum amount has been capped cannot be reduced even if it is a compounding offence. We have sought legal opinion on it,” a transport ministry official added.
Officials also said the Supreme Court’s committee on road safety, based on whose recommendations many provisions of the act were drafted, is scheduled to meet on Friday to discuss the issue of states who have refused to implement the act.
Another official said Gujarat, the first state to reduce the fines, had overshot its jurisdiction to give certain exemptions, such as not making helmets necessary for pillion riders, defeat the purpose of the act, said a second person in the ministry. “It will have to go through legal scrutiny,” he said.
Parliament passed amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act in its previous session, raising penalties in some traffic offences by as much as tenfold. The new penalties came into effect on September 1 but several governments, including Delhi, are yet to notify the new rates. India is a signatory to the United Nation’s Brasilia Declaration with the target of reducing road fatalities by 50% by 2020.
At present, nearly 150,000 people die each year due to road accidents in India.
Defending the new fines, Gadkari said on Wednesday, “We haven’t done this [amendment] to augment revenue. We have done this to save lives. If state governments want to reduce it [fines], they are welcome to do so.” He said that the number of deaths caused by road accidents was the highest in India.
An official close to Gadkari said the ministry was clear that it would not amend the rates and leave it to the states to lower the fines. “Be it BJP-ruled Gujarat or TMC-ruled West Bengal, each state is free to decide on amount of fine it want to impose for violations,” this person said. “But states will, then, be responsible for all accidents that happen within their territory.”
“We should not think about trying to lower the fines where it becomes affordable. If it’s affordable, it’s not a fine... The state government need focus on training their police personnel to be courteous to road users and incorporate technology in enforcement to weed out corruption,” said Piyush Tewari, CEO, SaveLIFE Foundation
First Published: Sep 12, 2019 23:42 IST