The Parliament had last month cleared the new Motor Vehicles Act rules, increasing a 10-fold increase in fines for traffic violations offences.
At least four Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruled states — Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra and Karnataka — have moved to water down the stringent provisions of the amended Motor Vehicles Act, inviting embarrassment for the ruling government at the Centre. The Narendra Modi-led government, which pushed for the passage of the amendments to the revamped bill which imposed much heavier penalties for traffic violations, has maintained that the stringent punishments are not intended to be a revenue-generation exercise but intended to raise awareness about road safety and create a deterrence.
Some states led by parties in the Opposition at the Centre have already put the implementation of the law on hold, prompting the Centre to seek legal opinion whether states have the right to dilute the provisions of the new law. However, with some BJP-ruled states adding to the mix, the matter has become complicated for the Centre.
While the BJP-Shiv Sena ruled Maharashtra government, where elections will be held later this year, has written a letter to the Centre to reconsider the fines for violating traffic rules, the BJP-ruled Gujarat, PM Modi’s home turf, has already lowered fines by up to 90%. The BJP government in Uttarakhand has also reduced penalties. A report in The Indian Express said that the BJP government in Karnataka will soon approach the Centre for permission to reduce the penalties. The opposition parties-ruled states like Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Punjab have already put the new rules on hold.
On Wednesday, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said that the fines were hiked not to collect revenue but to act as a deterrent against violation of traffic rules. He said that states have the right to reduce the fines but they should be ready to bear the consequences.
When asked about the Maharashtra government’s request to reconsider the law, Gadkari who himself comes from the state, said, “Maharashtra Transport Minister was a part of the committee that approved the Act. During my discussion with Devendra Fadnavis, he didn’t mention it. I feel there will be no problem.”
“Is it not the responsibility of the government to save the lives of the people? That is the spirit behind this law. It is not the intention of the government to increase fines to get revenue for the government,” he added.
The Parliament had last month cleared the new Motor Vehicles Act rules, increasing a 10-fold increase in fines for traffic violations offences. The Centre had argued that the idea behind the amendments was to reduce the number of accidental deaths and inculcate a culture of better traffic sense. As per government figures, at least 1.10 lakh people have lost their lives due to road accidents on national highways in the past two years. In 2017, 53,181 people lost their lives on NHs and 54,046 in 2018. The total road deaths in 2018 is estimated to be close to 1.5 lakh.