The Centre has sought a legal opinion from the law ministry on those provisions of the MV Act
The implementation of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, from September 1, has started a fresh round of debate on its stringent penalty provisions. While some states have proposed to dilute the hefty penalty provisions in the Act, there are those like West Bengal which have refused to implement right away. Even as the central government defends the Act, it may seek legal opinion to tackle the situation at hand. Megha Manchanda demystifies the Act, which was reintroduced by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to reform driving rules in India.
When does the Motor Vehicles Act come into force? Is there any repercussion for the states delaying its implementation?
It will come into effect after the Act is notified by the respective state government. There is no repercussion for states for either delaying or refusing to implement the Act as the implementation is not linked to any kind of grant by the central government. The Act clearly states: “It shall come into force on such date as the central government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint and different dates may be appointed for different provisions of this Act and any reference in any such provision to the commencement of this Act shall be construed as a reference to the coming into force of that provision.”
Is it within the powers of states to revise the penalty provisions downwards?
The Act does not give flexibility to the states for any downward revision of penalties. However, an upper limit for the penalty has been set under the Act. States can increase the penalty up to 10 times the amount. For instance, if the offence invites a fine of Rs 1,000, under the MV Act, a state has the power to raise this amount to Rs 10,000. The Act has 64 clauses pertaining to fines and driving rules. States have the power to revise fines for more than 24 provisions that are compoundable, while the penalties for non-compoundable offences cannot be revised.
Compoundable offences are those offences where the complainant (one who has filed the case, i.e. the victim) could enter into a compromise and agree to have the charges dropped against the accused.
Can the ministry of road transport and highways take legal action against the states that are not adhering to the Act?
According to Shashank Atreya, a research fellow at Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, there is no provision under the Act for a downward revision of penalties. Section 210A of the Act says: “Subject to conditions made by the central government, a state government, shall by notification in the Official Gazette, specify multiplier, not less than one and not
greater than ten, to be applied to each fine under this Act and such modified fine, shall be in force in such State and different multipliers may be applied to different classes of motor vehicles as may be classified by the State Government for the purpose of this section.”
The Centre has sought a legal opinion from the law ministry on those provisions of the MV Act that can be enforced by state governments to lower hefty penalties. This has been done in the backdrop of rolling back of penalties by some states, including some BJP-ruled ones.
But, Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said his responsibility is to save the life of 120,000 people who die in road accidents annually. He said the Act has been enacted in public interest.
Do cab aggregators come under its ambit?
The Act does not cover cab aggregators and states have their own set of rules for ride-hailing apps. As of now, it is not clear whether they are to be treated as an IT company or a mobile application. In 2015, the central government issued guidelines for ride-hailing services, identifying them as on-demand information technology-based transportation aggregators and not taxi companies.
Karnataka recently prohibited ride-hailing services from continuing with carpooling services as the state’s transport rules had no provision for a carpooling service.