Motor Vehicles (Amendment Bill) 2019: Idea of higher fines as a deterrent

Reading time: 6-8 minutes.

The root cause of most of the deaths caused in India is due to road accidents. According to Nitin Gadkari, Union Transport Minister if the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 is amended and comes with more strict rules and regulations, might the people out of fear of penalty be cautious while driving on roads.

On July 23, Lok Sabha passed the Motor Vehicle (Amendment Bill) 2019 and Rajya Sabha passed this bill on 31st July whose major objective is primarily “in various penalties for traffic violations, protection to Good Samaritans, and recall of defective vehicle parts by auto companies, holding builders accountable for poor quality of infrastructure and making vehicle owners criminally liable for violations committed by juvenile drivers”.

Public reaction about the Amendment was dual. Some people believed that high rise of penalties will create a fear among public and they will be more alert and responsible while driving or renewing their licenses, etc. whereas some people believed that the new amendment should only be applied to teenagers as they don’t follow the traffic rules and regulations and the older generations are more mature and they know what is right and wrong.

Many believed that before making any rules and regulations, Government should keep a check on their surroundings for example, repairing the potholes on the road.

The controversial issue – steep hike in fine:

State Governments and public are protesting the new Motor Vehicle Act, because of the excessive penalties which is based on the offences committed and starts from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 10,000.

Some examples of penalties revised in the New Motor Vehicle Act are:-

  • Previously, if a person was found not wearing a helmet while riding a motorbike the penalty of the offence was Rs.100 and now the penalty has increased 10 times i.e. Rs.1,000.
  • Previously, if a person was not found wearing a seatbelt while driving a car, the penalty was Rs. 100 and now the penalty of the offence is Rs.1,000.
  • Previously, if a person was found racing or speeding a car the penalty was Rs.500 and now the penalty of the offence is up to Rs.10,000 and 1 year imprisonment.
  • Previously, if a person was found overloading of passengers the penalty was nil now the penalty of the offence is Rs. 1,000 per passenger.
  • Previously, if a person was found driving a car without license the penalty was Rs.500 and now the penalty of the offence Rs.5,000.

 The  mandate of increased fine can also be used excessively by law enforcement .  Recently, a man from Delhi was fined of Rs.1,47,000 for overloading the truck by the Delhi cops which was more than the price of the truck.

Fine as punishment in India:

The punishments of offenders are laid in Section 53 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 in which one of the categories is fine. Section 63 of this Act imposes a person amounts to fine and Section 64 of this Act imposes imprisonment for certain period of time for not paying fine.

According to Motor Vehicles (Amendment Bill) 2019, the punishments for offences are revised. If any person is committing an offence for the first time then the punishment is up to 6 month imprisonment and fine up to Rs.10,000.  If the same person commits an offence for second time, the punishment is 2 years imprisonment and fine of Rs.15,000.

Deterrent theory of punishment

In Deterrence Theory, people are not committing crime in the fear of getting caught red handed rather than people are committing crime as they are being motivated by some moral sense.

According to this theory, people are mostly committing a crime as the punishment is not very severe but very easy. For example, if someone is caught stealing a pen from a shop, then as a punishment the person is given a warning and according to this theory it says that the person can do the same act in nearby future.

Deterrence theory has faced a lot of criticisms due to its three assumptions: – Firstly, the penalties are known for the crime committed; secondly, people have a good control on their actions and thirdly, the person’s behavior is either based on its logic but not passion. This theory is mostly used in the case of drunk driving.

Criticism:

Many States such as West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Jharkhand and Maharashtra have chosen to not to execute the new Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act as it would overload the public and this might lead to corruption.

There are certain states such as Karnataka, Dehradun, Gujarat, and Kerala are implementing the act but made certain changes of penalties in the amended act. 

According to Mamta Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal said to the reporter, “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”.

When the reporters asked Nitin Gadkari, about the issue that some States are not implementing the new Amended Act in their States said that as India is considered to be one of the accident prone Nation in the world. After lot of debates with other Ministers, to stop this nuisance they had come with strict rules and higher penalties for their benefits only.

Conclusion: Probable outcome

The severe road accidents which take place are not always due to the carelessness of the driver, sometimes there is a fault of road contractors also who uses cheap materials to save some money will now be decreased to minimum as the new Motor Vehicle Bill also has a penalty for road contractors who make faulty designs. Earlier, no such provision existed so these types of cases use to occur frequently.

Juveniles are still not allowed to drive vehicles until they attain the age of majority but the New Bill had made the rule stricter. If any juvenile found driving any vehicle and by chance it caused an accident then the parents of the juvenile will be held responsible for the accident and will be punished and prosecuted accordingly.

The compensation of road accident victims also increased, for hit-and-run cases the compensation is Rs 25,000 and in cases of deaths it has increased to Rs. 2 lakhs and in the cases of injuries, the compensation has been increased from Rs 12,500 to Rs 50,000. This new rules of compensation will help the victims of the family to lead a stable life and not die out of poverty and hunger.

After the above research the author asserts that it is easy to come into a conclusion that now people will drive safely and follow all the traffic rules and regulations may be out of fear but the mishappening which happens on roads will now seem to be decrease.

-This article is brought to you in collaboration with Shalini Saha from Amity Law School, Gurugram.

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