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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

‘Prioritize lives’: Road accident survivors on steep traffic fines

Many states, including Maharashtra, Gujarat and West Bengal, have said they will not implement high penalities on traffic offences

india Updated: Sep 12, 2019 15:52 IST
Anisha Dutta
Anisha Dutta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Traffic police personnel issue challans to traffic rules violators.
Traffic police personnel issue challans to traffic rules violators. (HT Photo)

Criticising state governments’ decision to roll back fines for traffic offences under the newly amended Motor Vehicle Act, road crash survivors and their families called for rapid implementation of the law instead of succumbing to “political and commercial pressure”.

This comes a day after Bhartiya Janata Party-ruled Maharashtra, which also happens to be the home state of Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari, said it won’t implement stiff penalities under the amended Motor Vehicle Act.

On Tuesday Gujarat government too decided to reduce fines on 17 traffic offences, becoming the first state to dilute tough new penalties that have triggered public anger and a clamour for a rollback in several Indian states, including Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Telangana who have indicated that they will reduce the penalties, while some states such as Uttarakhand and West Bengal are yet to notify. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday said the Act won’t be implemented in the state.

Also read: Karnataka to follow Gujarat order, to slash traffic violation fines

Harry Singh, a research scholar, who was paralyzed from waist down in the after a bike accident and has been undergoing rehabilitation since 2010, said,” I don’t understand why state governments are not implementing this Act? Why are people focusing on higher penalties? Is the life of a citizen not important?”

Another road accident survivor Pratishtha Deveshwar said “people are circulating jokes on higher fines. We might laugh at these jokes but what we don’t realise is that road crashes are not a laughing matter. For survivors and their families, it is a cruel social reality. Families have to borrow loans and beg for money for the treatment.

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 1.5 lakh people die each year due to road accidents in the country.

Also read: ‘Fines for safety, not revenue; states can make cuts’: Nitin Gadkari

“Every hour 17 lives are lost on Indian roads either due to their own carelessness or somebody else’s fault. A family loses all their savings and much more in the care and treatment of their loved ones. This act will ensure that victims and their families get proper compensation,” said Shashank Shekhar, whose brother was in coma for over a year after an accident.

Even amid public furore over the steep fines, the Centre had reiterated that there would be no roll back. Gadkari, however, clarified that “states can revise fines if they want…Peoples’ lives should be saved.”

According to senior government officials, the transport ministry is also mulling the decision to seek legal opinion on states who have decided to reduce fines.

There are 24 offences under the law where the states can decide the penalties and the central rules remains the upper limit, these are part of what are called compounding offences, which can be settled at the spot by paying a fine. These compoundable fine rates need to be notified by state governments for the police to be able to collect it. Otherwise, such offences are fined, or settled, only through a city court – as is currently the case in Delhi.

First Published: Sep 12, 2019 15:49 IST