Gujarat is the first state that has begun slashing fines massively under the amended Motor Vehicles Act (MVA), which was passed by the Union Government of India just weeks ago. Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, earlier last week, had asked transport officials of the state to take a relook at the steep fines in the amended Motor Vehicles Act. Following consultations with transport department officials, the state government of Gujarat has decided to slash the fine on triple riding by a whopping 90 %. The original fine for triple riding – a particularly dangerous form of overloading on two wheelers – under the new Motor Vehicles Act was Rs. 1,000. The Gujarat state government has reduced this to Rs. 100. What was meant to be a deterrent to dangerous riding will not longer be such a deterrent given the steep reduction in fine.
And it’s not triple riding alone that has seen fines being slashed. The new fine for not riding without license in Gujarat is Rs. 3,000, down from Rs. 5,000 that the amended MVA had prescribed. Similarly, the fine for not wearing a helmet/seatbelt has been reduced to Rs. 500 from the original Rs. 1,000. Speeding will now result in a fine of Rs. 1,500 instead of the original Rs. 2,000. These reduction is fines are said to be due to public sentiment.
The Gujarat government, thanks to the federal structure of the Indian constitution that bestows various powers on the states, is well within its rights to slash fines. Notably, transport is a state subject.
Will other states follow?
Many other states in India have also expressed deep reservations about the steep penalties under the amended MVA. Some states such as West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh. Rajasthan and Punjab have even refused to implement the revised fines under the new MVA. As for Odisha, the chief minister of that state, Naveen Patnaik, has asked law enforcement officials to go slow on booking traffic rule violators for three months, and has instead asked them to spread awareness about road rules and steep fines. Given the Gujarat government’s move to reduce fines on several dangerous acts such as triple riding, driving without seatbelt and riding without a helmet, it’s likely that other states will also follow suit and slash fines massively. If that happens, the very purpose of having massive fines as a severe deterrent to traffic law breakers will be negated.
Will the Gujarat government’s move to slash fines encourage dangerous riding/driving?
Absolutely. Overloading a two wheeler with three people is extremely dangerous as it makes the vehicle unstable. An unstable vehicle not only puts the lives of its passengers at risk but also endangers the safety of other road users. By slashing fine on such a dangerous act by 90 %, the Gujarat government seems to be tacitly encouraging such behavior. This could set a shameful precedent. We hope that betters sense prevails.