Finally, the penalties for disobeying traffic laws have become quite hefty in India, but will it make a difference to the way India drives? On Monday, 24 June, the Union Cabinet approved the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill that proposes hefty penalties for violation of traffic laws.
This has been a long time coming. This 2017 Bill, which was pending approval in the Rajya Sabha, lapsed after the term of the 16th Lok Sabha ended. However, according to a PTI report, the Cabinet has now been cleared and will be presented to parliament in the current session. It will then be notified to be enforced by authorities.
The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill has made some significant changes to the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988 (which is a revised one). Under the new Bill, as seen in the chart above, the fines for drunk driving or driving after being disqualified have been sharply increased from Rs 500 to Rs 10,000.
In addition, not giving way to emergency service vehicles such as ambulances, fire services, or police vehicles will entail a stiff penalty of Rs 10,000. This provision was not there in the earlier Act. Besides the revised fines, the Bill also documents changes in the way driving licenses are issued. For example, using the Aadhar number is now compulsory for applying for driving licenses and vehicle registrations.
Also, driving licenses in India were earlier valid for 20 years or until the person turns 50 years old. Now, driving licenses will be valid for only 10 years for those between ages 30 and 50. If someone gets a license between the age of 50 and 55, it will be valid till age 60, while for those who renew their licenses after age 55, the validity of the renewed license will be for only 5 years.
Insurance payout limits on third-party insurance have been removed. This has already been reflected in the steep hike in third-party insurance premiums, too, purchasing new vehicles more expensive. Manufacturers can no longer pass off substandard or defective vehicles to consumers. The Bill provides for mandatory recall of vehicles if proven to be a danger to other road users. The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill will be presented to parliament in this 2019 monsoon session. It will then be notified to authorities.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has asked for standardization of driving license formats across the country. These will all be linked online in its “Sarathi” database, which will store information about the license holder and challans issued. It already has about 15 crore driving license records available. The government has also started issuing e-challans for violations, directly reaching owners of the vehicles found violating rules. These fines can also be paid online on the government’s Parivahan website. However, not everyone is convinced of its implementation.