Gujarat on Tuesday reduced fines on 17 traffic offences, becoming the first state to dilute tough new penalties that have triggered public anger and a clamour for a rollback in several Indian states.
The move comes a day after Odisha announced a moratorium on the implementation of the new fines following clashes over the weekend after an aggressive protest from people against the steep hike in traffic fines.
At least 12 more states have not implemented the new MV Act over the increased penalties, with some of them saying they are considering revising the fines in the coming days.
Gujarat made the amendments keeping an empathetic view, especially for people from lower and middle classes who use two-wheelers, chief minister Vijay Rupani said, adding that the new rules will come into force from September 16.
The biggest relaxation has been offered to two-wheeler owners with the fine for not wearing helmets cut from Rs1,000 to Rs 500. There will also be no fine for pillion riders without helmets, and car drivers not wearing seat belt will need to pay Rs 500 instead of Rs 1,000 set by the new central law.
Parliament passed amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act in its last session, raising penalties in some traffic offences by as much as tenfold. The new penalties came into effect on September 1 but several governments, including Delhi, are yet to notify the new rates.
Road safety experts have asked the Centre to “gradually increase” traffic fines, alleging “false” and “entrapped” prosecution by traffic police. “The recent amendments cannot be faulted, they must be commended. But care should be taken that the fines are imposed gradually on traffic violators in the sense that if the increased range is from Rs 100 to Rs 1000, the first year should be Rs 250, the second Rs 500 and the third year should be Rs 1,000,” president of the International Road Federation (IRF), KK Kapila, said.
In some cases that came to attention for the stark quantum of fines, people driving motorcycles have been fined as much as Rs 23,000 for multiple offences caught at once.
“There are 24 offences under the law where the states can decide the penalties and the central rules remains the upper limit. States can technically nullify them even to Re 1. The remaining penalties cannot be contested,” said Piyush Tewari, CEO, SaveLife Foundation.
The 24 are part of what are called compounding offences, which can be settled at the spot by paying a fine. These compoundable fine rates need to be notified by state governments for the police to be able to collect it. Otherwise, such offences are fined, or settled, only through a city court – as is currently the case in Delhi.
Serious offences such as drink driving come under non-compoundable offences and violators must appear in court to face charges.
Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Telangana have indicated that they will reduce the penalties, while some states such as Uttarakhand, West Bengal and Maharashtra are yet to take a decision and are scrutinising the new law. Assam and Himachal Pradesh have said that they will continue with the tougher fines.
The Union government has defended the steeper fines, highlighting the spike in road accidents and fatalities over recent years as it steered the law through parliament during the Budget session this year.
“State governments should implement the amended Act, which was tightened in view of increasing number of accidental deaths due to traffic rule violations,” said Union minister of state for home, Nityanand Rai.
According to Rai, the number of traffic rule violation cases has dwindled after the penalties were made more stringent.
Sep 10, 2019 22:44 IST