In India regulation of motor vehicles on road dates back to 1914, when the first legislation was passed called the Indian Motor Vehicles Act, 1914. Since then, the Act has been amended several times to ensure the safety of people on roads, due to the improvement in the road network, and the development of new kinds of transportation and technology. The Act went through its first amendment in the year 1939 which was the era of industrialization, and the population was also rising due to which the necessity was felt to frame new laws under the Act of 1939 which remained in force for some decades then changes were made again in 1988.
On 14 November 1988, a new Act was passed called the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 which is a legislative act passed by the parliament to regulate vehicles running on the roads, by including the provisions for licensing, registration of motor vehicles, the insurance policies, control of transport vehicles, control of traffic, no-fault liability, penalties, etc. The purpose of the legislation is to ensure road safety, compensation to the victims of road accidents, third-party insurance, and the health of the vehicles.
This legislation gives the central government and state governments the power to frame rules and guidelines for road safety and transport management.
The Central Government from time to time issues notices regarding changes and up-gradation of certain rules and provisions under new traffic rules through its gazetted notifications.
Some provision made by the Government in late 2020 are as follows:
1. To avoid the issuance of fake licenses, Adhaar Card has been made mandatory for new driving licenses and any amendments in this regard.
2. New Driving licenses will be equipped with advanced level microchips which will help the government check the records of up to 10 years of DL holders online. Guidelines have been issued to DL issuing authorities to save records of rejected and revoked DL on online platforms. Also driving licenses can be applied for renewal online without visiting RTOs
3. The Centre has also made it mandatory for all motorbikes to have handholds and saree guards to provide safety to the pillions.
4. Guidelines have also been issued by the centre for the installation of lighter containers. The containers will now be installed either on the back of the front part of the vehicle and not on the sides as this creates disturbances. The container should not exceed the size of 550*510 mm
5. BS-VI emission norms have been made compulsory in the new vehicles
6. Those vehicles whose weight is more than 3.5 tonnes have been mandated to install tire pointers which will measure the pressure of tyres and will keep the driver up to date.
Motor Vehicles Act (MVA), 1988
The Motor Vehicles Act,1988 came into force on 1st July 1989 mandates all drivers to have a compulsory driving license and directs the vehicle owners to get their vehicles registered, and no unregistered and uninsured vehicles can be driven on road. Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 is a comprehensive enactment for various matters relating to traffic safety on roads and the minimization of road accidents.
The major purpose of this legislation is the provision of compulsory insurance and compensation under different factors ranging from size and type of vehicle to age and type of injury caused to the victim.
Section 1 of the Act states that the Act extends to the whole of India and Section 2 defines the terms used under this Act such as who is the driver, what is a license, who can be called passengers, which vehicle will be called a motor vehicle, etc.
According to Section 2, a “motor vehicle” or “vehicle” means any mechanically propelled vehicle adapted for use upon roads, whether the power or propulsion is transmitted thereto from an external or internal source and includes a chassis to which a body has not been attached and a trailer but does not include a vehicle running upon fixed rails or a vehicle or a special type adapted for use only in a factory or in any other enclosed premises or a vehicle having less than four wheels fitted with engine capacity of not exceeding twenty-five cubic centimetres.
Section 3 to 28 of the said legislation deals with the provisions of licensing for drivers, as well as the vehicle while Section 4 has the directions regarding legal age, which is 18 years, to obtain a license to run a motor vehicle on the public road, however, those motor vehicles whose engines capacity is up to 50cc may be ridden by any person aged above 16 while a transport vehicle can only be driven by the person whose age is 20 or above.
Section 5 lays down the responsibilities to the owners of the motor vehicles while Section 6 deals with the restriction on holding driving licenses. Under the Motor Vehicles Act, the provisions for learner’s license have also been stated under Sections 7 and 8.
Section 26 empowers the state governments to maintain the record of issue and renewal of licenses by the state authorities containing name and address of the holder, license number, date of issue, renewal, and expiry, classes and types of vehicles, and anything as such the central government may from time to time prescribe, in the form of a register known as State Register of Driving Licenses.
Section 19 deals with the circumstances when the licensing authority has the power to disqualify someone from holding and revoking such a license in case of such a person being a habituated drunkard or a criminal or a drug addict. The license can also be taken away if the person is involved in rash and negligent driving again and again or has obtained the license by fraud, or if he is under 18 and his rash and dangerous acts have put the life of the public in danger.
Section 119 - 134 deals with the provisions regulating traffic on the roads. According to Section 119, everyone must obey the rules and abide by the instructions given by the traffic police. Section 128 provides measures to be taken by the drivers while driving their motor vehicles on the road and for that purpose triple loading on two-wheelers has also been prohibited. Section 129 has made it mandatory for every person to wear protective headgear, which we commonly call a helmet while driving in any public place, however, liberty has been given to persons wearing a turban.
Even after taking all the safety measures, one cannot be sure about accidents not occurring on roads hence, under Section 134, provisions have been made for imposing duties on drivers and owners in case of injury to the third party from their motor vehicle. Whenever a person is injured by the vehicle of another, the person holding charge of the vehicle shall take all the necessary steps to provide for the medical treatment of the injured and shall inform the police and the person who has provided insurance to his motor vehicle in writing about the occurrence of that accident.
While there are many responsible drivers on the road, rash and negligent driving cannot be stopped. For that purpose different categories of offences and penalties have been defined under Part XIII of MVA, 1988.
Traffic Regulations Reality: Fact Check
As the world is moving towards urbanization, the road network is also increasing. Every year hundreds of kilometres of new roadways and highways are being developed and older, damaged roads are being repaired. These days every second or third middle-class family owns a car and every fourth family owns more than two cars. Motor Bikes have been very common with every household. The ages are often neglected by the families despite knowing the fact that under 18 driving is illegal. Teens in the flow of their age often undermine the rules and consider it ‘cool’ to break the traffic rules.
Rash and negligent driving have become very common in the name of modernization, and violating the rules of traffic has somewhat become the ‘fashion’ of the century. It is not only the citizens who should be blamed, negligence of government and local authorities should also be considered while talking about the loopholes. The broken roads, lack of responsible police officers, corrupt authorities, and to some extent the speed-breakers, collectively are the reasons which take away the lives of nearly 1,50,000 innocents every year in the country which is about 10% of the total motor vehicle fatalities worldwide. As reported by WHO in 2018, India stands first in the list of countries with the highest number of road accidents leaving behind the world’s most populous country, China. Ministry of Road Transport and Highways in its report of 2017, has also stated India as one of the most accident-prone countries, with about 5 lakh road accidents every year. While according to the 2018 report, the state of Uttar Pradesh had registered the maximum casualties in the country.
The situation was alarming as the roads are considered to be one of the growth factors and if people on roads are not safe especially due to human error, a country cannot be said to be developing adequately. The MVA, 1988 was growing older day by day, and India which is known to be the country of youth is becoming new and advanced with each passing day. So, it was compulsory to update the 30-year old Act and make it fresh and effective in consonance with the changing times.
Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019: Challenges and Way Forward
This amendment was the major step towards bridging the loopholes that the former Act had developed over the decades. The main focus of this new legislation was to impose hefty penalties which were increased up to 10 times in certain situations and the compensation with strict punishments provisions to create deterrence among the people, which would force the drivers to be more alert and careful on the roads.
Though initially the Act was highly protested against by various states on the ground that it transferred certain powers to the central governments thereby curtailing the powers of the state. For example, the new legislation prescribes the rules for licensing the taxi aggregators to be framed by the central government which used to be the power of the states. So, in this case, rules laid by the central government could vary with the guidelines of the states and could result in clashes between the centre and the state. States also claimed that increasing penalties and punishments will not be effective as it would only sum up the corruption cases and corrupt officers in the country. However, some states implemented it as it is, while some decided to reduce the penalties and then enforced it. Apart from the protest by the state while going through the amendments it can be found that there are certain loopholes and gaps which the government has failed to fill and certain provisions have unnecessarily been added without any proper explanation. Yet, even with all these challenges the Act was successfully passed and implemented throughout the country from 1st September 2019.
Amendments: THAT v. THIS
Insurance under Chapter XI of the 1988 Act and Offences under chapter XIII are the provisions that have gone through major changes in 2019.
Compulsory Insurance: To provide compulsory insurance to all road users, the central government shall set up a Motor Vehicle Accident Fund which will be used to treat road accident injury victims during the golden hour and compensation to the relatives of victims who died or were grievously hurt in hit-and-run accidents will be provided for under this fund.
The insurance claim by the victim’s family has been increased to Rs 5 Lakhs and it would be ensured that that family gets it within a month. For this purpose, the process of claiming compensation has also been simplified. The driver’s attendants are now to be included in third-party insurance.
Compensation for road accident victims: As per the Act, the golden hour is the time when chances of survival of a person injured in a road accident are very high if provided with proper medical treatment. This time extends up to one hour following the traumatic injury. Provisions would be made by the central government to provide cashless treatment of victims during these hours.
Protection of Good Samaritan: In 2019 a new Section 134A was added with the title Protection Of Good Samaritan. A good samaritan is a person who good faith, and without any expectations of any monetary assistance or reward, voluntarily agrees to provide emergency medical treatment to the victim by taking him to the hospital from the place of accident. Usually, people refrain from getting involved in helping victims as it invites action or repeated police interrogation against them, but after the introduction of this Section, no liabilities either criminal or civil will be imposed on a good samaritan even if the death of the injured person is caused due to their negligence or failure of the act while rendering the medical or non-medical emergency to the aggrieved person.
National Transport Policy: Central Government may consider forming a National transport policy in consultation with all state governments to develop a framework for road safety, grants of a permit, and other things.
Road Safety Board: The Act seeks to direct the central government to provide a National Road Safety Board which will advise the central and state governments on all aspects of road safety and traffic management by suggesting ways for registration and licensing of vehicles, and by promoting new vehicle technologies.
Fitness of the Vehicles: The Act mandates all the vehicles to be checked by automated fitness testers after which certifications will also be provided to ensure that only fit vehicles run on the road and unfit vehicles are scrapped from the traffic as these are equally dangerous and tend to violate the environment norms as well.
Taxi aggregators: The Act defines taxi aggregators like Uber, Ola as the intermediaries using digital platforms where people can connect with a driver for transportation purposes. They have been directed to abide by the provisions the of Information technology Act, 2000. A license will be issued to them by the state governments.
Online Driving Licenses: To ease the process and avoid issuance of fake learner’s licenses, provisions would be made for online issuance of learner’s license and compulsory online identity verification. This would also improve efficiency. The validity of commercial licenses has been increased from 3 years to 5 years.
Way Forward and Conclusion
Despite having various loopholes, this Act has certain specifications. In my opinion, increasing the penalty is a good step as people specialize in the middle class who amount to almost 95% of the total population do care about their hard-earned money, and since the nationwide rollout citizens have been observed to be a little more cautious to avoid hefty amount as challans.
Yet, I believe that this way is not the proper and sole measure that government should adopt, apart from giving a monetary shock, offenders should also be punished with compulsory imprisonment ranging from 10 days to the maximum of what government may prescribe. Fine is one thing that may be submitted by the vehicle owners but compulsory punishment will not let them abscond in major cases and thus a deterrence will be created. Apart from this, awareness regarding traffic rules should be taught to kids right from the very beginning so that the habits get inculcated since childhood. The government, in association with local authorities, can also come up with certain reward schemes like best road performer or best traffic rules observer, etc.
Special interaction by District Magistrate with parents should also be done by local authorities where discussions and ideas regarding awareness among youth can be done. An accountable and well-trained police force should be there. The use of new technologies where the offenders can be instantly be tracked by using number plates or by scanning those plates is the need of the hour. New platforms for linking the complaints and instant filing of complaints by the police can be developed. Weekly and monthly reviews and feedbacks by reasonable members of the society should be obtained at the district level.
We are a land of 135 million heads so just by imposing stiffer penalties, it cannot be expected that every person will follow those rules. For road safety, discipline and awareness are mandatory. No government or any authority can compel people to follow any rule unless the people themselves are willing to follow. People will do this only when a sense of responsibility is felt by them. The government is doing whatever it thinks fit per the latest scenarios, every day some or other traffic rule is being revised to make roads safer.
Hence, it is our duty as well to come forward and be responsible. This country belongs to us and so do the roads. We use them, so blaming the government every time something goes wrong, without making changing our habits, is an act of throwing our bag of flaws onto others. Learn the rules, follow them and make others follow them too. This is the only way we can cooperate with the norms made by the government and ensure the safety of the citizens.