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Critical Analysis of the Motor Vehicle Amendment Bill, 2017

Critical Analysis of the Motor Vehicle Amendment Bill, 2017

The Motor Vehicle Amendment Bill, 2017 which was passed by the Loksabha on April 10, 2017, has been stalled in the Rajyasabha for over a year despite road safety activists pushing for urgent passage of the same. The Bill is likely to be passed in the monsoon session of Parliament and its approval is of national importance for the following reasons:

(i) The Global Status Report on Road Safety, 2018 released by WHO provides that the road crash fatalities in India is at 3 Lakh, the highest in the world. Furthermore, the MoRTH’s Report, ‘Road Accidents in India, 2016 records the number of accidents in India to be.  1.46 lakh annually. This is extremely disconcerting especially considering that India only accounts for 2% of the global vehicle population. In light of the same, it is extremely pertinent to amend the existing law so as to curb the growing number of accidents and consequent fatalities.

(ii) The MV Act is three decades old and is not contemporaneous to the existing technology. Consequently, the outdated provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 are failing to deter the increasing fatalities due to traffic violations.  Hence there is a dire need to bring in radical changes to the Law.

(iii) The new Bill is a great step towards strengthening transportation and road safety in India since roads are vital for transportation in India and carry 655 of goods and 90% of passengers.

(iv) The Proposed Bill is also the need of the hour so as to attain the UN mandate under the Brasilia Declaration to reduce road accidents up to 50 percent by 2020.

Main proposals in the Bill:

  • Introduction of a Road Safety Board

The New Bill provides for a National Road Safety Board under Section 215D. The Board has been set up with an objective to render advice to the Union as well as the State Government on aspects of road safety and traffic management including standards of road design, vehicle maintenance, road maintenance, motor vehicle standards etc.

  • Centralized Digital Licensing System

The new Bill takes into account the digital growth of the country and provides for a centralized digital licensing System which envisages the following:

  1. Section 25A provides for setting up of a  digital National Register of Driving Licenses, the identification of which would be on the basis of UID System. The Register would subsume all the State Registers and hence, would enable the maintenance of a comprehensive register of all the licenses issued in the country. To ensure the success of the register, Section 25H specifically provides that no driving licenses shall be valid unless it has been issued a unique driving license number under the National Register of Driving Licenses.
  2. The Bill also envisages the introduction of Learner’s license online and automated driving tests.

Outcome:

An online licensing system will reduce the increasing number of touts involved in obtaining a driving license.  It will also curb the practice of obtaining multiple licenses from different States which was earlier possible due to the lack of a centralized database.  Furthermore, it will help to bring in uniformity with respect to driving licenses throughout India.

  • Provisions Regarding Offences Committed by Juveniles

The Bill seeks to introduce Section 199A wherein Guardians of the Juvenile / Owner of the vehicle will be held responsible for traffic violations by the juvenile. The onus will be on the guardian/ juveniles to prove that the offense was committed without their knowledge or they tried to prevent it.  Additionally, the guardian or owner of the vehicle shall be held guilty with a fine of Rs.25000 and or imprisonment of up to 3 years. Juveniles committing traffic violations will be tried under the Juvenile Justice Act. The registration of the vehicle shall also be canceled.

Currently, there are no provisions pertaining to offenses committed by Juveniles. Allowing unauthorized person the driven vehicle imputes a penalty of Rs.1000 and or imprisonment of up to three months. Provisions of IPC are also invoked in certain instances.

The stringent provision is a result of 18738 accidents in India involving underage drivers.  (as per 2016 MORTH Report). It is pertinent to note that 5383 of the said accidents were fatal. The amendment will ensure that the vehicle owners/guardians will not allow their vehicle to be used by minors, resulting in a reduction of the number of offenses committed by juveniles.

  • Protection of Good Samaritans

The Bill seeks introductions of Section 134A to protect people who aid accident victims from criminal and civil liability, also known as good Samaritans. The section gives them an option not to disclose their identity to policy or medical personnel. This is in tune to the directions of the Honourable Supreme Court in Save Life Foundation v Union of India wherein the Honourable Court had held that civil/criminal liability cannot be imputed on any person who brings the injured person the hospital in accident cases. Similar guidelines have already been issued by MORTH, binding on all States and UTs.

The amendment will ensure that the people who witness the road accidents will wilfully help the accident victims without any fear of civil or criminal liability. On the flip side, the lack of provision for examination of good Samaritans may lead to people with bad intention of taking advantage of the provision.

  • Motor Vehicle Accident Fund

The Bill also envisages the setting up of a Motor Vehicle Accident Fund which provides compulsory insurance cover to all road users in India for certain types of accidents by the Government.

The need for such a fund was widely debated in the Parliament. The Government is yet to come up with a rational answer.

  • Accountability for Poor Roads

The Bill also envisages the insertion of Section 198A to impute accountability on contractors, consultants, and civic agencies for faulty design, construction or poor maintenance of roads leading to accidents.  This will result in a penalty of up to Rs. One lakh in such cases.

The new provision is a laudatory step towards improving the quality of roads in India. The provision was introduced to curb the increasing number of accidents and deaths caused due to engineering/designing fault. As per the MORTH’s Report (Road Accidents in India, 2016), 1289 accident were caused in India due to engineering faults, killing 589.

  • Provision for Recalling Vehicles with Substandard Components

Under Ss. 110A and 110B, the Bill empowers the Central Government to recall vehicles with substandard components/engines, posing a threat to the environment, the driver, occupants of the vehicle or other road users. Additionally, testing agencies or owners (comprising of a minimum specified percentage) can report defects to the central Government so that the Government can then make a recall order.  Vehicle Users who are affected by such orders are also entitled to reimburse the buyers for the full cost of the vehicle or replacement of the defective vehicle with a similar or better vehicle. Manufacturers can also be fined upto Rs. 500 crore for sub-standard products.

The insertion of S. 110Aand 110B will result in a paradigm shift in the transport industry in terms of recall of vehicles.

  • Enhancement of Fine for Several Offences:

The Bill also enhances the fine for the following offences:

  1. Minimum fine for drunk driving (From Rs. 2000 to Rs. 10000)
  2. Fine for rash driving (From Rs. 1000 to Rs. 5000)
  • Driving without a license (From Rs. 500 to Rs. 5000)
  1. Fine for over speeding ( From Rs. 500 to Rs.5000)
  2. Fine for not wearing seatbelt (From Rs. 100 to Rs. 1000)
  3. Fine for talking on a mobile phone while driving (From Rs. 1000 to Rs. 5000)
  • Fine for travelling without ticket on public transport (From Rs. 200 to Rs 500)
  • Fine for disobeying the orders of authorities (From Rs. 500 to Rs. 2000)
  1. Fine for unauthorized use of vehicles without license (From Rs 1000 to Rs. 5000)
  2. Fine for driving without license (From Rs. 500 to Rs. 5000)
  3. Fine for driving despite disqualification (From Rs. 500 to Rs. 10000)
  • Fine for not wearing helmet – (From Rs. 100 to Rs. 1000 (along with disqualification of license for three months)

The stringent penalty will result in curbing traffic violations as they will think twice before committing any offense. However, the stringent penalties will only enable in obtaining the objectives if the enforcement agencies act strictly. It is pertinent to ensure that corruption is kept at check as the increase in penalty gives opportunities to enforcement agencies to collect bribes lower amounts.

  • Introduction of New Penalties

The Bill also introduces new penalties to ensure stringent punishment which will act as a deterrent and prevent road users from driving recklessly:

  1. Fine for driving oversize vehicles would be Rs. 5000 and Rs. 1000 for LMV.
  2. Fine for aggregators (violating licensing conditions – Rs. 1,00,000
  • Fine for not giving way to emergency vehicles – Rs 10000
  1. Fine imposed on guardians of juveniles for offences committed by Juveniles ( Rs. 25,000 with 3 years’ imprisonment)
  • Categorisation of Validity Period for Vehicles

The new Bill introduces new categories for validity period of driving licence. If the driving license is issued to a person under the age of 30, it would be valid till he turns 40. If driving license is issued to a person between the ages of 30 and 50, the license would be valid for a period of 10 years. If the license is issued to a person between 50 and 55 years, it will be valid until the person turns 60. If the Dl is issued to person above 55 years, it will be valid for five years. (This can be contrasted with the current provision wherein a DL is valid for 20 years until a person turns 50, and for 5 years after the age of 50)

The new categorisation reasonably classifies validity period of driving licenses on the basis of age of individuals, thereby ensuring that people who are not physically capable of driving vehicles obtain licenses for driving.

  • Introduction of Aggregators

Currently, app based taxi services were to register themselves as taxi operator under obsolete laws requiring them to obtain permits of different kinds to operate.The new Bill seeks to introduce a concept of aggregators who have been defined as “a digital intermediary or market place for a passenger to connect with a driver for the purpose of transportation”, thereby giving statutory recognition to transport aggregators. E.g. cab service providers like Ola, Uber.

This is a laudable state as most app based taxi services were receiving flak from different State Government for not registering themselves in their respective states as taxi operators. This will not only enable these aggregators to move our of the web of legal confusion that they have been tangled in but also enable them to become a business entity by themselves.

  • Introduction of Safety Provisions
  1. The new Bill proposes amendment to S. 138 of the MV Act which confers power to the State Government to make rules for a number of specified matters. The bill envisages the insertion of sub-section (1A) which will confer power on the State Government to “regulate activities of pedestrians and non-motorised road user sin a public place.” This will empower the State Government to create cycle tracks, footpaths, NMT lanes etc to ensure safety of pedestrians.
  2. The new Bill makes it mandatory for every child to be secured by a safety belt or a child restraint system (Section 194B). If the child is not seated in a safe manner, a penalty of Rs. 1000 shall be imposed on the adult.
  • Section 129 of the Act has been amended to mandate that every child above the age of four years being carried on a motorcycle wears a helmet. The design and specification of the helmet shall be prescribed by the Central government.

The introduction of the above mentioned safety provisions would enable in improving the safety conditions for pedestrians as well as motor vehicle users in India.

  • Provisions Pertaining to Transport Vehicles:
  1. The Bill seeks to introduce Section 12(5) which enables an applicant to obtain a transport vehicle in which he has received training through an accredit school. This is as opposed to the earlier provision which mandated at least one year experience of driving a light motor vehicle before applying for a LL for transport vehicle. The said amendment has been widely criticized, as it seems to be a step backward from road safety.
  2. Section 14(2)(a) has been amended so as to increase the renewal period of transport licenses. The renewal period has been increased from 3 years to 5 years. In case of transport licenses for driving vehicles with hazardous good, the renewal period has been increased from 1 year to 3 years in addition to compliance with the conditions prescribed by the Central Government.
  • Additionally, the Bill also envisages introduction of automated fitness testing for transport vehicles with effect from 1st October, 2019.

It is pertinent to note that the Bill has not dealt with provisions pertaining to fatigue tests, training of heavy vehicle transport drivers etc. which are extremely important factors to improve road safety.

  • Disqualification of Driver’s License

Section 19 has been amended so as to enable the disqualification of the driver’s license of any person after a certain number of offences. The name of the disqualified person shall be placed in public domain until completion of a driver refresher training course from an established school.

  • Registration of New Vehicles by Vehicle Dealers

Section 41 has been amended so as to enable vehicle dealers to register new vehicles. Such vehicles shall bear distinguishable registration marks. Dealers who fail to duly register a vehicle are liable to be fined up to an amount of Rs. 15000.

  • Annual Increase in Fines

Section 199B envisages an increase in the fines under the Act at the rate of ten percent on an annual basis on the first day of April every year. This has been done so as to ensure that the fines are contemporaneous with the changing times.

  • Introduction of Electronic Monitoring and Enforcement System

The Bill envisages the introduction of an electronic monitoring and enforcement of road safety under Section 136A. The Central Government shall make rules for the same and the respective State Governments shall be responsible for its implementation, as opposed to the current system wherein the monitoring and enforcement of road safety is a State subject.

The Section envisages the establishment of a robust electronic enforcement system including speed cameras, closed-circuit television cameras, speed guns and such other technology necessary for ensuring safer roads in India.

The introduction of Section 136A is a laudable step towards a better and improved road safety and infrastructure in India as it will reduce the amount of human intervention and consequently, the corruption involved.  The provision will also help in bringing in uniformity in terms of electronic monitoring and enforcement of road safety in India

  • Wider Scope of ‘Dangerous Driving’

Section 184 which deals with dangerous driving has been amended to widen the scope of dangerous driving. At present, the definition is very narrow and does not include traffic offences that lead to the most number of traffic accidents like using mobile phones, jumping traffic lights.    It now includes include the acts that are considered driving in manner dangerous to the public such as jumping a red light, violating a stop sign, use of hand-held communication devices while driving, driving against the flow of traffic, and passing or overtaking any motor-vehicle in a manner contrary to law.

The amendment will make the public more careful about traffic violations, thereby reducing the number of road accidents. The provision will also enable law enforcement agencies to penalise violators effectively.

  • National Transportation Policy

The amendment introduces Ss. 66A and 66B which empowers the Central Government to introduce A National Transportation Policy. The said Policy would be formulated after consulting with the State Governments

  • Introduction of Multiplies for Penalty

The Bill seeks to introduce the concept of multipliers for penalty (under S. 210A).  The said section will enable the State governments to increase fine in their respective States. .The multiplier cannot be less than 1 nor greater than 10.  Under S. 210B, the enforcing authority will have to pay twice the penalty corresponding to any offence.

This provision will aid the State Government to increase penalties in places where they are of the opinion that higher penalties may be required to curb to violations.

  • Enhancement of Compensation in Hit and Run Cases

The Bill proposes to amend S 161 to the effect that compensation in hit and run cases in case of grievous injury would be hiked to Rs. 50,000 and in case of death, Rs. 2 lakhs.   Currently, compensation for hit and run cases is Rs. 12,500in case of grievous hurt and Rs. 25,000 in case of death.

 India suffered from 55,942 hit and run cases in 2016 alone. The amendment would enable in decreasing the number.

  • Removal of Cap for Liability for Third Party Insurance

The 2016 Bill capped the maximum liability for third party insurance at Rs. 10 lakh in case of death and Rs. 5 lakh in case of grievous injury.  The current Bill seeks to remove the cap on liability.  This may encourage owners to start insuring their vehicles, enabling progress in the field of financial protection in toad safety.

Conclusion

The Government, through the Amendment Bill seeks to promote safe and sustainable mobility in India. The Amendment Bill is a very promising Bill considered to be the biggest reform in the Transportation Sector. The Bill proposes humungous improvement in the realm of road transportation and connectivity in India through mediums of digitalization and automation. Consequently, the Bill leaves no scope for abuse of power by intermediaries/tauts.  Additionally, the Bill recognizes that stakeholders play a significant role in its implementation and imposes liability on them at several stages, so as to achieve the process. However, the success of the Bill would largely depend on the efforts of the Central And State Governments to strictly implement the same.

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