West Bengal on Wednesday joined several states who have objected to the steep fines under the new Motor Vehicles Act. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee asserted that her government would not implement the amended Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act as it would put additional burden on the common man.
"We are not implementing the motor vehicles bill that was passed recently in the Parliament. It is very harsh. We have given special focus on our traffic safety programne ‘Safe Drive Save Life’ and our police and other stakeholders are working towards reducing the number of accidents that have also have come down. We cannot implement it now because it will come as an additional burden to the people," Banerjee told reporters at the state secretariat.
Speaking in the state Assembly, Mamata Banerjee called the new motor vehicles law an "interference on the federal structure". Objecting to the steep fines listed in the Act, Banerjee said the problem should be resolved from a humanitarian ground.
"Unilaterally you cannot take a decision that will harm the people. Instead of imposing a Rs 500 fine you are proposing to increase it to Rs 10,000. There are so many poor people and from where will they get the money? The money is not the solution. You have to solve the problem from humanitarian ground," she said.
Following complaints from people that the police extorted money from them in the name of traffic violation, Banerjee recently asked policemen and civic volunteers to refrain from doing so. The state government continues to follow the existing West Bengal Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989.
Earlier, the Bengal government raised several objections to the elevated fines mentioned in the bill and had asked the Centre to review it.
Meanwhile, following the harassment of a model-turned-actor by motorbike-borne youths, the traffic rules across the state were strengthened and checkpoint inspections were held at major roads and crossings.
The Act, which came into effect from September 1, aims at stricter punishment for violation of traffic regulations and to bring discipline on roads. Among several amendments, the new rules also enhance the penalty for drunken driving to imprisonment up to 6 months and/or fine up to Rs 10,000 for first offence and imprisonment up to 2 years and/or fine of Rs 15,000 for the second offence.
Besides Bengal, many states including, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Puducherry, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab and Telanagana have objected to the steep penalties in the new law.
On Tuesday, Gujarat announced a steep cut in penalties under the new law, in some cases by up to Rs 4,000. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said his government has no interest in harassing people by levying steep fines or dragging court cases for years, but it takes safety of people as its top priority.