A Bill aimed at weeding out corruption, improving road safety and promote the use of more technology to regulate traffic was passed on Tuesday in the Lok Sabha with by voice vote.
Speaking on The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which was moved in the House for passage on Monday, Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari said "the Bill is not mandatory for states to join". He, however, appealed to all the states to adopt similar policies.
Seeking amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, with increased penalties for several offences such as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the Minister said the Bill also provides for grant of licences and permits related to motor vehicles, standards for motor vehicles and penalties for violation of these provisions.
Gadkari said that the existing law is 30 years old and the penalty for traffic rule violators is very low, which does not instill fear of the law.
"The proposed legislation will also help check corruption," he said.
The Minister also said the Central government would facilitate a scheme for cashless treatment of road accident victims for the 'golden hour' -- a time period of up to one hour following a traumatic injury during which there is the highest likelihood of preventing death through prompt medical care.
The Bill provides a scheme for providing interim relief to claimants seeking compensation under third party insurance and increases the minimum compensation in hit-and-run cases.
In case of death, there is a provision for Rs 25,000 to Rs two lakh, and in case of grievous injuries, it is between Rs 12,500 and Rs 50,000.
The Bill proposes to increase penalties for several offences under the Act. The maximum penalty for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs has been raised from Rs 2,000 to Rs 10,000.
If a vehicle manufacturer fails to comply with motor vehicle standards, the penalty could go up to Rs 100 crore, or imprisonment of up to one year, or both. Besides, if a contractor fails to comply with road design standards, the penalty will be a fine of up to Rs one lakh.
The government may increase the fines mentioned under the Act every year by up to 10 per cent.
The Bill provides for a National Road Safety Board, to be created by the Central government through a notification. The Board will advise the Central and state governments on all aspects of road safety and traffic management such as standards of motor vehicles, registration and licensing of vehicles, standards for road safety, and promotion of new vehicle technology.
The Central government may develop a National Transportation Policy in consultation with state governments. The policy will establish framework for road transport, develop a framework for grant of permits, and specify priorities for the transport system.
Amendments moved by RSP's Premachandran, Trinamool Congress' Saugata Roy and DMK's Kanimozhi were negated through voice vote.
Responding to Kanimozhi and Premachandran's queries about guardians of juveniles being arrested in case of accident, the Minister replied that "the clause is kept so that parents and guardians take responsibility of their children and not let them drive".
Responding to NCP's Supriya Sule's question about electric vehicle subsidy, the Minister said: "It is not part of the policy yet. We are considering the London model."
Gadkari said that technology could bring down accidents. "There is a system that doesn't allow the vehicle to run if the driver is under the influence of alochol. Similarly those driving without seat belts can be alerted in the police control rules."
Congress floor leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury intervened, saying India doesn't have spare parts for electric vehicles. "How will you achieve your target?", he asked.
Gadkari assured that accidents would reduce after the Bill comes to effect.
"Black spots will be eliminated. More expressways are being created. With the help of states, we will transform the roadways," he said.
On the topic of dealers directly getting registration numbers, the Minister said the government wants to end this practice.
Gadkari lauded the Tamil Nadu government for bringing down accidental deaths.
"We removed the education clause after the Haryana CM (Chief Minister) requested so. Many lost driver's licence because they couldn't prove they had passed eighth class," he said.
"In addition, all we are saying is increase the ticket price by 15 per cent and give the poor air conditioned buses, he added.
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