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This article is written by Tarannum Vashisht, a student of Rajiv Gandhi National University Of Law, Punjab, to give the reader an insight into the major provisions of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019. This article also covers some major issues and benefits associated with this amendment. 

Introduction

The constitution-makers of India have made this constitution both rigid and flexible. The most evident feature of this flexible nature of our constitution is the amendment procedure as provided under Article 368. This helps the laws to be effective in consonance with the changing times. The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act 2019, was a major attempt towards the fulfilment of this spirit of the constitution, amending the old Act of 1988. This amendment provides some major changes to the old Act. This article is an attempt to provide the reader with a greater insight into the main amendments, benefits and disadvantages of this recent amendment to the old Act. 

Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019

The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019, came into effect on 1st September 2019 and made rules more stringent for offenders, therefore creating a more rigorous punishment for them. This amendment has made it difficult for those in the habit of breaking traffic rules. Some examples of the change that have been brought about are- imprisonment of up to a month for driving errors and a provision for imprisonment of up to 6 months for accidents caused by rash drivers etc.

Objective

With every step towards increased urbanisation, it is evident that the traffic on roads has increased. Nowadays, each household in almost every city or town has at least one motor vehicle. With this increasing traffic on roads the probability of accidents increases. This probability matches with the reality. The number of road accidents is on the rise.

The reasons are many, like negligent and rash driving, dishonouring the traffic rules, unavailability of an efficient enforcement mechanism for traffic rules, inefficient traffic police force etc. The Motor Vehicles Act’s recent Amendment was done keeping in view these factors. 

This Act majorly aims at ensuring road safety, compensation for the victims of accidents, third party insurance and the health of the vehicles. 

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Salient Feature Of The Amendment

The important features of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 are as under-

Road And Environment Health

In case the vehicles are not fit to be used on roads as they cause environmental damage and hence harm the health of others, they have to be returned to the manufacturers of the respective vehicles. The manufacturers through this amendment are directed to take back these vehicles and have the choice to either reimburse or replace the defective vehicle with one of similar make. 

Road Safety

This Amendment vehemently propagates the increase in the penalty for traffic rule offenders. This is done in the hope that this increased fine would force the drivers to be more alert and careful on the roads. This amendment provides more stringent rules for offences like juvenile driving, drunken driving, over speeding, overloading and driving without a license. Stricter punishment for those driving without helmets is also made in this Amendment. 

Fitness Of Vehicle

This Amendment has provisions mandating the automated testing of vehicles for doing a fitness check. This would help improve road safety by removing from the traffic unfit vehicles. This Amendment makes specific provision for those who deliberately violate environment and safety regulations. 

This Amendment promoted certification of automobiles after they were successfully tested. The regulation of this process of certification was also proposed via this Act. In addition to this, Amendment of 2019 aims at setting testing standards and bringing the agencies issuing automotive approvals under the Motor Vehicles Act. 

National Road Safety Board

Another major feature of this Act is the provision for setting up of a National Road Safety Board under the central government. This board is supposed to advise governments of all the states in addition to the central government on matters of traffic management and road safety. 

Compensation For Victims Of Road Accidents

Provisions have been made for cashless treatment of victims of road accidents, during the golden hour. Golden hour is the time period up to one hour from the time of the accident. This is the time period in which the chances of survival if proper treatment is given, are maximum. An effort to make this whole process cashless is also made by this Act.

Protection Of Good Samaritan

This Act defines a Samaritan as a person who stands up for helping out a road accident victim immediately after such mishappening takes place. It is often seen that these generous people are the ones who end up being the victim of harassment for their acts of kindness. This Amendment provides for these people too. It ensures that they are not harmed in any manner whatsoever. It also protects them from any kind of civil or criminal proceedings, even in cases where they negligently cause the death of the victim. 

Compulsory Insurance

This Act instructs the union government to establish a Motor Vehicles Accident Fund providing compulsory insurance to all drivers of India.

Taxi Aggregators

These are defined by the Bill as the intermediaries using a digital platform for connecting drivers to passengers. These according to these new provisions, are to be provided with licenses from the governments of the respective states. Also, they are instructed to follow the rules and regulations of the Information And Technology Act, 2000.

National Transportation Policy 

This Act promotes the idea of the formation of a National Transportation Policy. This is to be made by the Central government in collaboration with the governments of all the states. This policy would structure a framework for road transport. In addition to this, priorities for the transport system would be specified. 

Training of drivers

This Amendment strengthens the process of driving training. This would lead to a faster issuance of licenses. This Amendment comes in the wake of a shortage of commercial drivers in the country. It propagates the opening up of more driver training institutes for ensuring the production of better commercial drivers in India.

National Register for Driving licence and Vehicle Registration

This Amendment puts forth harmonisation and integration of issuance of driving licence with vehicle registration. This would be done by the creation of a National Register for Driving Licence and National Register for Vehicles with the online portals of ‘Sarathi’ and ‘Vahan’. This process would ensure the creation of a uniform system of licences and vehicle registration throughout the country. 

Online Driving Licences 

This Act makes a provision for online issuance of learner’s license, mandating an online identity verification. This would improve efficiency and limit to a large extent issuance of fake licenses. In addition to increasing transparency, this Act also provides commercial licenses to be valid up to a period of five years instead of three years. There would now be driver training schools for the production of better drivers on roads. 

Motor Vehicles Accident Fund 

A Motor Vehicles Fund would be constituted to provide compulsory insurance to all drivers on-road by the central government. This fund would be set up to compensate victims of road accidents and their legal heirs in case of their death. 

Better Insurance Facilities 

This Act states that there exists no cap on liability for insurers. In fact, drivers attendants are now to be included in third party insurance. There would now be up to ten times increase in compensation by insurance companies. Provisions have been made to ensure that if the victim’s family agrees to compensation of five lakhs, the family gets it within a month. The process of claiming compensation has also been simplified. The minimum compensation for hit and run cases and cases where the grievous injury is caused has also been increased. 

Issues

Some issues regarding the various provisions provided for under this Act have been raised, the major ones are listed below-

  1. With an already existing fund for hit and run cases, another fund, created by this Act for the same purpose seems futile and unreasonable. 
  2. This Act is good in text and spirit, but its uniform implementation all over India is a very difficult job.
  3. It has also been brought to light that for ensuring that traffic rule offenders don’t go unpunished, electronic surveillance is imperative. For example, the installation of CCTV cameras and other related equipment. Naturally, this would require huge investments, regarding which the Act is ambiguous. 
  4. Many states have raised the issue of curtailment of their autonomy at the behest of the central government. 
  5. Also, it has been noted that this amendment provides for relief to victims. However, it is unclear as to which specific offences would lead to that penalty. This may make the whole attempt of providing relief futile. 
  6. Also, there are insufficient vehicle- manufacturers for the successful implementation of safety features. 

                    

Benefits

The main benefits of the amendment Acts are as follows-

  1. E-Governance is the major highlight of this amendment. With this, it is no longer necessary to have certain specified educational qualifications for acquiring transport licenses. This provides online learning for licences and increases the driving licence’s validity period. 
  2. The biggest benefit of this amendment for the ordinary man is the increase in compensation to victims and their families and better and quicker insurance facilities. 
  3. Provisions have been made to improve the registration process of vehicles by making this process more convenient with the use of ‘Sarathi’ and ‘Vahan’ platforms. Provisions have been made to enable registration of vehicles at the end of the dealer. Also, temporary registrations have been discouraged. 
  4. With stricter rules on the fitness of vehicles, the air pollution level in cities is expected to significantly drop. 
  5. With digitalization and e-governance, the system is expected to be more efficient in its undertaking, minimizing risks.

Conclusion

The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act of 2019 seeks to bring about changes in the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988. This is in lieu of solving some major issues of road safety, third party insurance, etc. Guidelines for cabs have also been issued, which would later be finalised. The digitalisation of some related services like issuance of licences, change in address, issuance of receipts to ensure better efficiency has been done. The state governments are to constantly monitor state highways, national highways, and urban roads through electronic mode. Some major amendments are also done in the compensation schemes and insurance provisions. All these have benefited the drivers of India, although some have raised their concerns over the curbing of state autonomy. 

References 

 

 

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