The Motor Vehicles Act originally came into effect on 1st July 1989, which replaced the Motor Vehicles Act of 1939, which had earlier replaced the first enactment of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1914. The main purpose of the Act is to legislate the provisions relating to the operation of motor vehicles, which includes traffic regulation, the license of drivers, offenses, and penalties relating to motor vehicles, registration of motor vehicles, and a number of such matters.
India reported the highest number of road accidents worldwide in the 2018 report of the World Health Organization[i], even leaving behind the most populated country, China, in this regard. The report of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways of 2017, as many as 5 lakh road accidents occur in India every year in which around 1.5 lakh people are killed.
In order to control the menace of road accidents, the central government of India amended the Motor Vehicles Act by the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bill got passed in the Lok Sabha on 23rd July 2019 and in the Rajya Sabha on 31st July 2019. The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019[ii] got implemented in the country on and from September 1, 2019.
The Act majorly aims at ensuring road safety, compensation for the victims of accidents, third party insurance, and the health of the vehicles, and has made the rules more stringent for the offenders and has created provisions for more severe punishments.
Salient features of the Amendment
The Amendment Act of 2019 has brought a significant number of changes and alterations to the Motor Vehicles Act. Certain salient features of the 2019 Amendment Act have been discussed below:
1. Compensation for road accident victims
The Act has made provisions for the cashless treatment of victims of road accidents during the ‘golden hour’, which has been defined as the time period up to one hour from the occurrence of the accident. This ‘golden hour’ is hence the time period in which the chances of survival of the victim are maximum if subjected to proper treatment and immediate care. The amendment has increased the minimum compensation for hit and run cases. According to the Act, the compensation in case of death stands from Rs. 25,000/- to 2 lakhs, and in case of grievous injury from Rs. 12,500/- to Rs. 50,000/-.
2. Road and environment health
The amendment directs the manufacturers to take back the vehicles, in case the vehicles are not fit for use on roads and cause environmental damage and harm the health of others. The manufacturers have been given the choice to either reimburse or replace the defective vehicle with one of similar make.
3. National Road Safety Board
A key feature of this Act is that it provides for the setting up of a National Road Safety Board under the central government in order to advise the governments of all the states and also the central government on matters relating to traffic management and road safety.
4. Compulsory insurance
The Act instructs the Central Government to establish a ‘Motor Vehicles Accident Fund’ for providing compulsory insurance to all the drivers of the country.
5. Fitness of Vehicles
The Amendment has laid down mandates for the automated testing of vehicles for doing a fitness check for improving road safety by removing unfit vehicles from the traffic. There are specific provisions in the Act for those who intentionally violate environment and safety regulations. The Act promotes the certification of automobiles after being successfully tested. Also, it aims at setting testing standards and bringing the agencies issuing automotive approvals under the Motor Vehicles Act.
6. Taxi Aggregators
‘Taxi aggregators’ are defined by the Act as the intermediaries using a digital platform for connecting drivers to passengers, who, according to the provisions, are to be provided with licenses from the governments of the respective states and are instructed to follow the rules and regulations of the Information And Technology Act, 2000.
7. Online Driving Licenses
This Act provides for online issuance of learner’s license and mandates online identity verification. This is aimed at improving efficiency and limits the issuance of fake licenses to a large extent. This Act also provides that commercial licenses would be valid up to a period of five years instead of three years. Driver training schools have been provided for, in order to ensure the production of better drivers on roads.
8. National Register
This Amendment Act encourages harmonization and integration of issuance of driving license with vehicle registration. The Act lays down that this would be done by the creation of a National Register for Driving License and National Register for Vehicles with the online portals of ‘Sarathi’ and ‘Vahan’ in order to ensure the creation of a uniform system of licenses and vehicle registration throughout the country.
9. Protection of Good Samaritan
It has been often observed that generous persons who help the victims of road accidents end up being the victims of harassment. The Act defines ‘Samaritan’ as a person who stands up for helping out a road accident victim, immediately after such an accident takes place. It ensures that they are not harmed in any manner and protects them from any kind of suits or proceedings, even if they cause the death of the victim negligently.
10. National Transportation Policy
The idea of the formation of a National Transportation Policy has been promoted by the Amendment of 2019. Such a policy has to be made by the Central government in collaboration with all the state governments and would structure a framework for road transport.
Issues raised regarding the Act
Some issues regarding certain provisions of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 have been raised. Some major issues are as follows:
1. The creation of funds by this Act for hit and run cases, in spite of the existence of a fund for the same purpose, seems unreasonable and futile.
2. The uniform implementation of the Act all over the country appears difficult.
3. Ensuring that traffic rule offenders do not go unpunished, as has been provided in this Act, the use of electronic surveillance, like CCTV cameras, is very necessary. This would entail huge investments, regarding which the Act is uncertain.
4. Many states have raised the issue that their autonomy has been curtailed at the order of the central government
5. The Act provides for the relief for victims but is ambiguous as to which particular offenses may lead to such penalties. This may frustrate the purpose of the entire attempt to provide relief.
6. There are not sufficient vehicle manufacturers for successfully implementing the safety features enumerated in the Act.
Benefits of the Act
The Amendment Act has posed a number of benefits. The major benefits are enlisted below:
- The Act has highlighted the importance of e-governance, and hence, it is no longer necessary to have certain specified educational qualifications for acquiring transport licenses. This also provides for online learning for licenses and increases the validity period of driving licenses.
- The increase in compensation to victims and their families and the improved insurance facilities are the major benefits of the Act to the ordinary people.
- The amendment has also made provisions for the improvement of the registration process of vehicles and has made them more convenient with the use of ‘Sarathi’ and ‘Vahan’ platforms.
- The Act aims at significantly decreasing the air pollution levels in cities with the implementation of stricter rules on the fitness of vehicles.
- Since the Act has provided for steps towards digitalization and e-governance, the system is expected to be more efficient in its undertaking, minimizing risks.
The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act of 2019 which has sought to bring about changes in the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988, has proved to be of utmost benefit to people and the country if properly implemented. The Act aims at solving some major issues of road safety, third party insurance, and the like, which have been prevalent in the country for a long. The Act has also issued certain guidelines for cabs, which would be finalized at a later stage. The most significant aspect of this amendment seems to be the digitalization of some motor vehicles related services like the issuance of licenses, the change in address, and the issuance of receipts to ensure that better efficiency has been done.
The Act requires that the state governments should constantly monitor the state highways, national highways, and urban roads with the aid of electronic modes of surveillance. The Act has also provided for some major alterations in the compensation schemes and insurance provisions, which have been of immense help to the common people of the country. All of these provisions have benefited the drivers of India, though some of them have raised their concerns over the curbing of state autonomy.
Hence, the changes in the Motor vehicle Act brought about by the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act of 2019 is expected to be the way forward for the improvement of the Indian transportation system and for punishing the willful offenders in this regard.
Student, School of Law and Justice, Adamas University
The author is currently pursuing B.Sc. LL.B. (H) from the School of Law and Justice Adamas University, Kolkata. She has completed her plus two with 98% marks in the ISC. She is a regular mooter and article-writer. Her area of interest mainly includes Constitutional Law and Criminal Law. However, she also takes a keen interest in Human Rights issues. Public speaking is her passion, and her ardour for penning down her opinions has not been dampened. With an additional benefit of belonging to the legal fraternity, she has a passion for the discipline, and also understands the need for legal research and legal education in the country.