States hit the brakes on hiked traffic fines, some slash penalties, others won't implement

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States hit the brakes on hiked traffic fines, some slash penalties, others won't implement

Several states have decided to not implement new Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act citing steep penalties. Some states said it would overburden people while others said it would lead to higher levels of corruption.

However, speaking to India Today TV, Nitin Gadkari differed from what unconvinced states had to say.

He said the high penalties under the amendment have gone through many debates and it was passed after careful recommendations with all stakeholders.

Gadkari added that key objective behind higher penalties was to increase road discipline among citizens as India remains one of the top accident-prone nations in the world.

Data from 2017 corroborates his claim. As per data obtained from Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, 1.47 lakh people lost their lives due to road accidents in 2017; the scenario remains the same in 2019.

Despite the data and the good intentions behind stricter penalties, states such as West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Jharkhand and Maharashtra denied imposing stricter fines to boost road discipline.

Meanwhile, other states like Karnataka, Dehradun, Gujarat, and Kerala decided to reduce the rates that have been stated in the amended act. There are some that still deliberating before final implementation.

PENALTIES AND INCIDENTS

The penalties under the new MV Act, which can range from Rs 1,000 to Rs 10,000 based on offences, seem to be the main reason why people are protesting and state governments, reluctant.

Let's get on with more details. The fine for not wearing a helmet has increased from Rs 100 to Rs 1,000, which is a 10x rise. Commuters can also risk facing a three-month disqualification of licence, but that does not seem to be a concern.

The fine for not wearing a seatbelt has also increased to Rs 1,000. For people found speeding or racing, the offence under new rules is Rs 5,000 compared to just Rs 500 before.

And for drunken driving, people need to have heavy pockets: Rs 10,000. Also, the fine for driving without a valid licence is Rs 5,000.

Since its scattered implementation, there have been several reports of people being fined Rs 20,000-60,000.

Two incidents stand out: When a Delhi man was fined an amount more than the price of his two-wheeler and the truck driver who was fined Rs 1,47,000 for overloading by Delhi cops.

Not to forget, truck drivers caught wearing lungi in Uttar Pradesh will have to pay Rs 2,000 as fine.

There have been scores of such reports emerging from all corners of the country where the stricter penalties have been imposed.

WHAT STATES SAY

Few states had decided to deny imposition of strict fines on September 1, the day when amended MV Act came into force.

West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan were some of the first states which had asked for a review and subsequently rejected higher penalties.

Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the penalties under the MV Act are too steep and would overburden people in her state. She also told that the stiff fines are "too harsh" on the people.

"We are not implementing the amended Motor Vehicle Act right now because our government officials are of the opinion that if we implement it, then it will be a huge burden on the people. It is very harsh," she told reporters.

Madhya Pradesh had earlier said it would review the new changes in the act but have not yet implemented the stricter penalties. A few days ago, the state's law minister PC Sharma had made it clear that the new traffic law will not be implemented at the moment.

"I spoke to law secretary in the morning and I will speak to Chief Minister (Kamal Nath) so that the law will be implemented with some amendment. Right now, the penalty is huge and not everyone can pay such huge amount as penalty," Sharma said.

Rajasthan government had also said that it would not be implementing an "impractical law" citing steep fines. The state's transport minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas said it would go on with the implementation only after reviewing the penalty amount.

"We cannot stop the Central Motor Vehicle, the Central Government. We have the right to change the compounding amount," Khachariywas said.

Even Maharashtra, which is a BJP-Shiv Sena ruled state, has shared its reservation on imposing such high penalties on commuters in the state. State Transport Minister Diwakar Raote has written to Gadkari stating that the fines are "way beyond the limits" of common people.

"We have asked the Central government to lessen the fine. Till the time we get a reply, we will wait and not implement the new fines. Once we get the reply and it is negative, we will decide our future action," Raote said.

'THE GUJARAT MODEL'

Gujarat, which too is a BJP-ruled state, became the first state to revise penalties and reduce in by almost 90 per cent in certain cases.

Under the revised norms, Gujarat commuters will have to pay just Rs 500 on days they get caught for not wearing helmets. Those who forget to carry licence will have to pay Rs 2,000 for two-wheelers and Rs 3,000 for vehicles under the tweaked rule.

These are among some of the rules that some other states are planning to follow. While the amounts could vary, states like Punjab, Karnataka, Kerala, Goa, Jharkhand and Dehradun are also planning a revision of the steep rates.

ELECTION PUSHBACK?

There have been speculations that the pushback from some states on implementation arise due to the upcoming assembly elections.

Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Haryana have assembly elections lined up this year. Many were of the view that Jharkhand and Maharashtra have denied imposing hefty fines due to upcoming elections.

However, Jharkhand transport minister has made it clear that the decision is for the interest of people and not due to upcoming elections.

The minister said that the fines under the new rules are "exorbitant" and the abrupt implementation could lead to a lot of despair among citizens.

Maharashtra also followed suit and said the demand to "reduce and reconsider" fines has nothing to do with upcoming elections. However, a report in the Mumbai Mirror suggests that people in Maharashtra may not have to worry about the fine at all till elections.

While elections could be a reason behind the pushback, the fact that almost half of the states are against the steep fines does not spell well for the future of the act.