Motor Vehicles Act: States cut traffic fines but raised no objection at GoM

Avishek G Dastidar
Traffic policemen stop a motorcyclist riding without a helmet as the newly amended Motor Vehicles Act comes into force. (File Photo)

While some state governments have now objected to the steep increase in penalities for traffic violations under the new Motor Vehicles Act, none of the states, including Gujarat, gave a dissent note or a verbal objection when a Group of Ministers (GoM), comprising state transport ministers, discussed the issue at multiple meetings held over two years.

Last week, the Gujarat government was the first to announce a cut in the penalties for traffic violations, by up to 80 per cent in some cases. Some others, including BJP-ruled states, have said they will rethink the new law.

Gujarat, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana no one objected to the fines. There was no dissent… All the states were totally on board. Kerala was represented by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at one meeting, said BJP leader Yoonus Khan, who chaired the GoM. He was then the Rajasthan Transport Minister in the Vasundhara Raje government.

The GoM was set up by Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari on March 2, 2016 to deliberate and recommend changes in the Motor Vehicles Act and the Central Motor Vehicles Rules. It submitted its recommendations in a series of interim reports after every meeting.

According to records of the meetings, then Gujarat Transport Commissioner Kamal Dayani and then Gujarat Home Secretary Manoj Agarwal were both present at the meeting held on May 20, 2016, which endorsed the hefty penalities. At the meeting, the panel listed specific traffic violations and proposed fines, similar to those in the final Act. The interim report of the meeting recorded the panel s decision: After detailed deliberations, we propose enhancement of penalties for violation of traffic regulations so that they act as a deterrent.

From April 29, 2016 to April 19, 2018, the 21 states represented in the GoM held at least five meetings in New Delhi, Guwahati, Dharamshala, Bengaluru and Thiruvananthapuram to discuss the provisions of the proposed law.

Among those who attended these meetings were the chief ministers and transport ministers of BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Jharkhand, which, along with Gujarat, have now struck a discordant note on the Act. Uttar Pradesh was represented by then Transport Minister Swatantra Dev Singh, Maharashtra by Transport Minister Diwakar Narayan Raote and Jharkhand by Transport Minister C P Singh.

Among the others who attended the meeting were P Mahender Reddy, then Telangana Transport Minister, and A K Saseendran, Kerala Transport Minister.

Khan said the states which are now opposing the Act knew the details of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, and had ample time and opportunity to raise objections as well as sensitise people about the new provisions. States are now spreading misinformation about the law. Why would people be bothered about the fines if they followed traffic rules? The provisions are designed that way… In India, more people have died in road accidents than in wars, he said.

According to records, Gadkari had also elaborated the Centre s concerns on increasing accidents and measures needed to enhance road safety at the 38th meeting of the Transport Development Committee, hosted by the Gujarat government in Vadodara in September 2017. Former Gujarat Transport Minister Vallabhbhai Kakadiya was among those who attended the meeting.

At that meeting, Gadkari set up another GoM, under Khan s chairmanship, comprising all state transport ministers, to deliberate on road safety. This GoM, in an interim report in September 2018, pushed for one nation-one tax for the transport sector.