New Motor Vehicles Act to Focus on Safety

The end of the 19th century saw the introduction of the first motor vehicles in India. In the beginning, the number of vehicles moving around in the country was quite small, and demanded no serious rules and regulations to be implied since there was no “traffic” so to speak. With the commencement of mass production of vehicles, and the roads being literally flooded with automobiles of varying sizes and shapes the administration realised the emergent need for devising  a system for the regulation and control of the vehicular traffic.

The Indian Motor Vehicles Act – Then and Now

The year 1914 saw the passing of the Indian Motor Vehicles Act, 1914 and being applied to the road and the traffic rules and regulations of British India came into being. The states under direct command acted with immediate compliance with minor changes and modifications according to the road, and transport development under their respective jurisdictions.  This sudden explosion in the number of motor vehicles was seen as a direct threat to the Railway companies under British control, leading to the formation of the Motor Vehicles Act 1939, which was brought into effect in 1940, succeeding its previous version.

In the year 1988, the Parliament of India declared a further advancement of the Motor Vehicle’s Act, the first under the Government of Independent India. The Act replaced the very first enactment passed in the year 1914, providing in detail, the legislative provisions regarding licensing of drivers/conductors, registration of motor vehicles, control of motor vehicles and their various types through valid papers, permits, special provisions relating to the individual state transport undertakings, traffic regulations, insurance of the vehicles done by the individuals owning them, driving and traffic offences and penalties for the same. The Act came into force on the first of July 1989. In order to exercise the legislative provisions of the Act, the Indian Government also passed the Central Motor Vehicles Rules 1989.

This version of the Act has continued ever since with minor changes here and there, but nothing significant or ground- breaking. With the ever-changing automotive scenario, and the rise in road accidents and vehicle related deaths and casualties, there has been an urgent requirement of an upgrade in the way our vehicular traffic is controlled and regulated.

In June this year, under the newly-formed government, Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari spoke of the introduction of an “umbrella” Bill that would cover all issues including vehicle safety and will be on the lines of the best international vehicular regulation and traffic law practices and norms.

The death of former Cabinet Minister Gopinath Munde, in a car crash, further pushed the government to take steps towards fast tracking a fresh motor vehicle Bill. The ministry wasn’t exactly in favour of introducing the amendment in the existing motor vehicles Act, that assures a greater penalty amount, for the fear of it feeding corruption.

Implementing the new bill

The minister also said that once the new Bill is drafted, and the suggestions and objections of those holding stake in its clearance are incorporated, it would be taken to the National Road Safety Council, where all  the State Governments will be expected to participate. The ministry’s new Bill would further use the information technology and its services for the issuing of drivers’ licences and vehicle registration certifications, to prevent duplications. There would be a fool-proof system to prevent fake or duplicate drivers’ licences.

The Minister would hold meetings with regional officers of the ministry to ensure that a proper track and record of road crashes and their causes and circumstances are kept all over and around by respective departments dealing with traffic rules and regulations in each State. He will lay stress on the need to overhaul the entire traffic rules and regulations through advanced IT system and employing teams of specialists, some to manage and others to train authorities in the management of the new set-ups. According to him, the previous laws were all focused on manual implementations which were no longer practical or efficient in  the present scenario.

Global cooperation sought

The United Kingdom has consented to help our ministry in this area and meetings with the UK high commissioner would further develop and upgrade a fresh Motor Vehicles Act of 2014 which would be passed shortly.

We can expect much stricter laws and regulations regarding road sense and traffic management along with relief and benefits in the overall driving experience, which is in the very least going to go upscale on a lot of parameters.

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