Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill aims at efficient, safe and corruption free transport system

The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which once passed into law, would improve road safety, facilitate citizens in their dealings with transport departments, strengthen rural transport, public transport and last mile connectivity through automation, computerisation and online services.

Speaking on the occasion, minister of road transport and highways and MSME Nitin Gadkari reassured state governments that the bill would, in no way, encroach upon the powers and authorities of the states. Rather, he said, the bill would empower states.  Besides, he said, the bill will provide an efficient, safe and corruption free transport system in the country. 
The bill has been passed with three government amendments and will need to go back to Lok Sabha. This, along with amendments, was passed by Lok Sabha on 10 April 2017. The Lok Sabha had already passed the bill on 23 July 2019. 
The bill as passed by Lok Sabha was introduced in Rajya Sabha and was referred to the Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha on 8 August 2017. The Select Committee presented its report to the Parliament on 22 December 2017. The bill was pending in the Rajya Sabha and lapsed with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha.
The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019 is based on the recommendations of the Group of Transport Ministers (GoM) of states constituted by the ministry of road transport and highways to address the issue of road safety and to improve the facilitation of the citizens while dealing with transport departments.  
The GoM was headed by Yoonus Khan, the then transport minister of Rajasthan, and had 18 state transport ministers from different political parties as members.
The amendments in the bill mainly focus on issues relating to improving road safety, citizens’ facilitation while dealing with the transport department, strengthening rural transport, last mile connectivity and public transport, automation and computerisation and enabling online services. Some of the important areas of amendment are as follows:
Road Safety: In the area of road safety, the bill proposes to increase penalties to act as deterrent against traffic violations. Stricter provisions are being proposed in respect of offences like juvenile driving, drunken driving, driving without licence, dangerous driving, over-speeding, overloading etc. Stricter provisions for helmets have been introduced along with provisions for electronic detection of violations.  Penalty regarding motor vehicles is to be increased by 10 per cent every year.
Vehicle fitness: The bill mandates automated fitness testing for vehicles. This would reduce corruption in the transport department while improving the road worthiness of the vehicle. Penalty has been provided for deliberate violation of safety/environmental regulations as well as body builders and spare part suppliers. The process for testing and certification for automobiles is proposed to be regulated more effectively. The testing agencies issuing automobile approvals have been brought under the ambit of the Act and standards will be set for motor vehicle testing institutes. The bill also provides for compulsory recall of defective vehicles and power to examine irregularities of vehicle companies.  
Recall of Vehicles: The bill allows the central government to order for recall of motor vehicles if a defect in the vehicle may cause damage to the environment, or the driver, or other road users. The manufacturer of the recalled vehicle will be required to: (i) reimburse the buyers for the full cost of the vehicle, or (ii) replace the defective vehicle with another vehicle with similar or better specifications.
Road Safety Board: The bill provides for a National Road Safety Board, to be created by the central government through a notification. The board will advise the central and state governments on all aspects of road safety and traffic management, including standards of motor vehicles, registration and licensing of vehicles, standards for road safety, and promotion of new vehicle technology.
Protection of Good Samaritan: To help road accident victims, Good Samaritan guidelines have been incorporated in the bill. The bill defines a Good Samaritan as a person who renders emergency medical or non-medical assistance to a victim at the scene of an accident, and provides rules to prevent harassment of such a person.
Cashless Treatment during Golden Hour: The bill provides for a scheme for cashless treatment of road accident victims during golden hour.
Third Party Insurance: The bill has included the driver’s attendant in Third Party insurance. There will be no cap on liability of insurers. There will be a 10 time increase in insurance compensation, from Rs50, 000 to Rs5 lakh. Claim process has been simplified. Insurance firms have to pay claims within a month, if the victim’s family agree to accept Rs5 lakh compensation. The bill also increases the minimum compensation for hit and run cases from Rs25,000 to Rs2 lakh in case of death, and from Rs12,500 to Rs50,000 in case of grievous injury.
Motor Vehicle Accident Fund: The bill requires the central government to constitute a Motor Vehicle Accident Fund, to provide compulsory insurance cover to all road users in India. It will be utilised for:  treatment of persons injured in road accidents as per the golden hour scheme, compensation to representatives of a person who died in a hit and run accident, compensation to a person grievously hurt in a hit and run accident, and compensation to any other persons as prescribed by the central government. This Fund will be credited through: payment of a nature notified by the central government,  a grant or loan made by the central government,  balance of the Solatium Fund (existing fund under the Act to provide compensation for hit and run accidents), or any other source as prescribed by the central government.
Improving Services using e-Governance: Improving delivery of services to the stakeholders using e-Governance is one of the major focuses of this bill. 
The bill provides for online Learners Licence with mandatory online identity verification; Driving test will be computerised to avoid fake DL. The bill will bring transparency in RTO offices. Commercial licences will be valid up to five instead of three years. Application for renewal can be made one year prior to or after licence lapses. Driver Training Schools will be opened so that more efficient drivers may be available.
Process of Vehicle Registration: To improve the registration process for new vehicles, registration at the end of the dealer is being enabled and restrictions have been imposed on temporary registration. The minister, however, said that state transport departments can inspect the vehicles at dealers end.
To bring harmony of the registration and licensing process, it is proposed to create National Register for Driving Licence and National Register for Vehicle registration through “Vahan” and “Sarathi” platforms. This will facilitate uniformity of the process across the country. 
Drivers Training: The driving training process has been strengthened enabling faster issuance of transport licences. This will help in reducing the shortage of commercial drivers in the country. More and more driver training schools and vehicle fitness centres will be opened.
To facilitate transport solutions for Divyang, the bottlenecks have been removed in respect of grant of driving licences as well as alterations in the vehicles to make it fit for their use.
Reforms in Transportation System: Development of integrated transport system will be possible from the National Transportation Policy. This will enhance the powers of the state governments, provide better last mile connectivity, rural transport etc.
Taxi aggregators: The bill defines aggregators as digital intermediaries or market places which can be used by passengers to connect with a driver for transportation purposes (taxi services). The bill provides guidelines for aggregators. At present, there are no rules in many states for regulating aggregators, taxis etc.
Reforms in Driving Licences: The bill provides for online Learners Licence. Provision of online identity verification. Aadhar Card has been made mandatory for making driving licences and driving test of the applicant will be computerised to avoid fake DL. The bill will bring transparency in RTO offices. Commercial licenses will be valid up to five instead of three years. Application for renewal can be made one year prior to or after licence lapses. Driver Training Schools will be opened so that more efficient driver may be available.
Simplification of vehicle registration process: Vehicle owners may register their vehicle anywhere in the state and process of registration will be done by dealers. Differently-abled persons will get facilities for registration of vehicles. Checking of fitness of vehicles will be computerised and laws for scrapping of old vehicle. Now since the National Register is in place, transfer of vehicle from one city to another will be easier and the stolen vehicles will not get registered.
National Transportation Policy: The central government may develop a National Transportation Policy, in consultation with state governments. The policy will: (i) establish a planning framework for road transport, (ii) develop a framework for grant of permits, and (iii) specify priorities for the transport system, among other things.
Offences and penalties: The bill increases penalties for several offences under the Act. For example, the maximum penalty for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs has been increased from Rs2,000 to Rs10,000. If a vehicle manufacturer fails to comply with motor vehicle standards, the penalty will be a fine of up to Rs100 crore, or imprisonment of up to one year, or both. If a contractor fails to comply with road design standards, the penalty will be a fine of up to Rs1 lakh. The central government may increase fines mentioned under the Act every year by up to 10 per cent.