UPSC MAINS 2020: Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2019

Topic : Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2019

Topic in Syllabus: General Studies Paper 2: Indian Governance

Context:

It is well known that India is one of the most accident-prone countries in the world, accounting for nearly 1,50,000 deaths, 10% of all motor vehicles-related fatalities worldwide.  In order to prevent the menace of road accidents; the central government has amended the Motor Vehicle 1988 by the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2019. Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act  2019 has been implemented throughout the country since September 1, 2019. Now the penalty has been increased 10 times on various violations.

Background:

  • According to the 2018 report of the World Health Organization, the highest number of road accidents occur in India worldwide. Even China, the most populous country, is behind us in this regard.
  •  As per the report of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, 2017; there are about 5 lakh road accidents occurred in India every year in which around 1.5 lakh people are killed.
  • There are around 1.49 lakh people died in 2018 in the road accidents with Uttar Pradesh registering the maximum spike in fatalities.
  •  So in order to prevent the menace of road accidents; the central government has amended the Motor Vehicle 1988 by the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2019.

Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act 2019

  • The amended Act gives the victims some respite as it provides for an enhanced insurance compensation of ₹5 lakh in case of death of a person in a traffic accident and ₹2.5 lakh where there is “grievous hurt”.
  • The compensation to be awarded following hit-and-run accidents has also been raised to ₹2 lakh when a victim dies and ₹50,000 when he/she suffers a grievous injury.
    Additionally, the Act now requires insurance companies and the government to notify schemes relating to cashless treatment during the ‘Golden Hour’ — the period of first 60 minutes from the occurrence of an accident when the risk of fatality can be minimised to the greatest extent.
    Further, it mandates compulsory insurance of all road users, including pedestrians, who will be covered through a ‘Motor Vehicle Accident Fund’.
  • Lastly, it also provides for interim relief to be provided to the claimants.
  • Recall of vehicles: The New Bill allows the central government to order for recall of defected motor vehicles which may harm the environment, or the driver, or other road users.
  • Road Safety Board:The National Road Safety Board, will be created by the central government to advise the central and state governments on all aspects of road safety and traffic management.
  • Offence and Fines:The new Bill has increases fines for several offence under the Act.
    • Fine for Drink and Driving: Now the fine is increased from Rs 2,000 to Rs 10,000 along with imprisonment of 6 months. On the repetition of this act fine would be Rs. 15,000.
    • Rash driving will cost fine of Rs. 5000 earlier it was Rs.1000.
    • Driving without driving lisence will be fined Rs 5000 instead of 500 earlier.
  • Offence by Juveniles is a new category introduced. Now Guardian of the Juvenile / owner of the vehicle shall be fined Rs. 25,000 with 3 yrs imprisonment. For Juvenile to be tried under Juveniles Justice Act. Registration of Motor Vehicle shall be cancelled.
  • If a vehicle manufacturer fails to comply with motor vehicle standards, the penalty will be a fine of up to Rs 100 crore, or imprisonment of up to one year, or both.
  • If a contractor fails to comply with road design standards, the penalty will be up to Rs.1 lac.
  • Under section 196 of the Motor Vehicle Act, 2019 driving without Insurance will be fined Rs 2000.
  • Under the section 194 D of the act; riding without Helmets will be fined to Rs 1000 and disqualification for 3 months for licence.
  • Under section 194B of the Act; driving without seat belt will cost Rs. 1000.
  • Speeding / Racing will be fined Rs 5,000 instead of Rs 500 earlier.
  • Under section 194 E of the Act; not providing way for emergency vehicles will cost Rs 10,000.

Institutional Flaws

  • The National Crime Records Bureau does not collate data pertaining to the socio-economic and demographic profile of victims of traffic accidents is a testament to the relative apathy shown by the state machinery.
  • Therefore these provisions, well-intentioned, are no doubt steps in the right direction. However, much more needs to be done if the accident victims are to be provided complete justice.
     

Issues unaddressed in the motor vehicle amendment act

  • First, closer attention needs to be paid to the formula used to calculate the quantum of compensation.
    • For ex: In the case of Arun Kumar Agarwal & Anr v. National Insurance Co. Ltd & Ors (2010), the deceased was a homemaker.
    • The Accident Claim Tribunal reduced the amount of compensation from the calculated sum of ₹6 lakh to a sum of ₹2,60,000, stating that she was unemployed.
    • In light of the same, on appeal, the Supreme Court commented that: “The time has come for the Parliament to have a rethink on properly assessing homemakers’ and householders’ work and suitably amending the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act… for giving compensation when the victims are women and homemakers.”
    • The amended Act, however, does not account for such nuances.
  • Second, many of the problems with the Motor Vehicles Act highlighted by the apex court in the case of Jai Prakash v. M/S. National Insurance Co. & Ors (2009) either remain unaddressed or are inadequately addressed by the amended version.
    • For instance, though vehicle users who don’t give passage to emergency ambulance vehicle are liable to be punished with fines, such punitive measures are likely to remain ineffective in the absence of an effective implementation mechanism.
  • Further, other factors that lead to a poor response time, including lack of road infrastructure, also need to be taken into account.
  • Another problem highlighted by the apex court for which the new Act does not provided any remedy is that of procedural delays on the part of tribunals in claims settlement.
  •  The provision for interim compensation is bound to bring some respite to the victims but another unaddressed concern makes this stipulation susceptible to criticism.
  • An absence of in-built safeguards in the compensation mechanism allows for the money to be frittered away by unscrupulous relatives, touts and agents, especially in cases where the victim or his nearest kin are poor and illiterate.
  • It is to address this concern that the Supreme Court in Jai Prakash suggested payment in the form of monthly disbursements of smaller amounts over a longer period of time to victims or their kin, as against a lump-sum award.
  • This has been overlooked by the new Act

Way forward:

  • If implemented in right spirit, the law can change road habits of all by not only imposing stiffer penalties, but also trying to inculcate a sense of responsibility among the citizens.
  • The government needs to notify an institutional framework which encourages advocacy for victims and facilitates access to the various services.
  •  After the passing of this bill Road and transport Minister says that the Bill will provide an Efficient, Safe and Corruption Free Transport System in the Country.

 Sample Question:

Critically examine the statement “The new motor vehicle amendment Act focuses more on penalties than compensation”.