New Traffic Rules And Penalties: The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019

The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed on July 23, 2019 to amend the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. The amendment seeks to impose strict penalties on violation of traffic rules, streamlining of licensing and its administration, and address the dire state of road safety in the country, especially after the exorbitant rise of number of vehicles, congestions, traffic violations, fatal accidents, structural and engineering deficiency of roads etc.


  • India is a signatory to Brasilia Declaration and is committed to reduce the number of road accidents and fatalities by 50 per cent by 2020. However, with one of the highest motorization growth rate in the world accompanied by rapid expansion in road network and urbanization over the years, our country is faced with serious impacts on road safety levels. According to Road Accidents in India Report-2015, the total number of road accidents increased by 2.5 per cent from 2014 to 2015. The severity of road accidents, measured in terms of number of persons killed per 100 accidents, has increased from 28.5 in 2014 to 29.1 in 2015.
  • Drivers’ fault has been revealed as the single most responsible factor for road accidents, killings and injuries on all roads in the country over a long period of time. Accidents and deaths caused due to “Intake of alcohol/drugs” within the category of drivers ‘fault accounted for 4.2 per cent and 6.4 per cent respectively.
  • Group of state transport ministers was constituted by Central Government which has recommend reforms for the road transport sector. The group recommended for the amendment of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.

Salient Features

  • Compensation for Road Accident Victims: The Central Government will make a scheme for the cashless treatment of victims of the accident during the golden hour and such scheme will contain provisions for creation of a fund for such treatment. Golden hour means the time period lasting one hour following a traumatic injury during which there is highest likelihood of preventing death by providing prompt medical care.
  • Motor Vehicle Accident Fund: The Central Government will constitute a Fund called as the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund for the purpose of providing compulsory insurance cover to all road users in the territory of India. The Fund will be utilized for treatment of the persons injured in road accidents and compensation to representatives of a person who died in hit and run motor accident
  • Good Samaritans: “Good Samaritan” means a person, who in good faith, voluntarily and without expectation of any reward, renders emergency medical or non-medical care or assistance at the scene of an accident to the victim or transports such victim to the hospital. A Good Samaritan shall not be liable for any civil or criminal action for any injury to or death of the victim of an accident involving a motor vehicle, where such injury or death resulted from the Good Samaritan’s negligence.
  • Recall of Vehicles: The Central Government can recall vehicles for any defect which in their opinion may cause harm to the environment or to the driver or occupants of such motor vehicle or to other road users. Recalled vehicle manufacturer will be charged for the full cost of the vehicle or replace with another vehicle.
  • National Transportation Policy: The Central Government may develop a National Transportation Policy consistent with the objects of this Act in concurrence with the State Governments
  • The Policy will establish a planning framework for passengers and goods transportation within which transport bodies are to operate and a medium and long term planning framework for all forms of road transport
  • Road Safety Board: The Central Government will constitute a National Road Safety Board which will render advice to the Central Government or State Government on all aspects pertaining to road safety and traffic management.
  • Offences and Penalties: Drink and drive penalty is increased to Rs 10000, Non compliance of vehicle manufacturer to standards attract penalty up to Rs 100 crore, or imprisonment of up to one year, or both. Failure of contractor with standards of road design attract penalty up to one lakh rupees.
  • Taxi Aggregators: The Act defines aggregators as digital intermediaries or market places which for a passenger to connect with a driver for purpose of transportation. These aggregators will be issued licenses by state. Further, they must comply with the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Significance of the Act

  • Environment is less harmed due to better legislative framework with respect to enforcement of standards.
  • Recall of vehicles is a smart way to enforce standards.
  • Creation of road safety board will lead to better policy guidance
  • Protection of Good Samaritan will lead to philanthropist coming in to the rescue of victims in the golden hour.
  • Incorporation of taxi aggregators leads to fulfilling of legislative lacuna.

Criticism of the Amendment

  • It is an infringement on state’s right and violation of federal principles as National Transportation Policy seeks to have one common driving licence and introduce uniform road taxes as commuter-friendly steps.
  • Harsh penalties and rules for its enforcement are susceptible to manipulation and coercion by traffic authorities.
  • Fear among state governments as they may get deprived of their earning from transport-related services including registration of vehicles or various services in the Regional Transport Office (RTO) or interstate movement duty due to implementation of National Transportation Policy.
  • Issue of last mile connectivity, as state governments who provide such services through road transport undertakings, argued that privatization of bus services, eventually leading to a drop in provision of such services in remote hilly and rural locations.
  • State will bear the cost of electronic monitoring of roads and highways to improve safety; and improving the road design through engineering design corrections.
  • Insufficiency of the compensation of upto 5 lakh.

Arguments in Support

  • It is not enforced on the states and they have their autonomy in implementing it or bypassing it.
  • Use of technology in administering the law and penalties will apply only if it is proved that the driver had intentionally violated the rules.
  • Road accidents are one of the major causes of unnatural death in India (nearly 1.49 lakh in 2018) and fatality increases in the absence of support during golden hours. Lack of good samaritan law was identified as one of the major reasons for it.
  • Supreme Court’s judgment in S Rajaseekaran case, also decided for four-dimensional approach - enforcement (of laws), engineering (road design), education and emergency care, known as the 4Es.It also constituted K S Radhakrishnan panel on road safety whose recommendations guided these changes.

Way Forward

Being a signatory of “Brasilia Declaration on Road Safety”, it is imperative to amend Motor Vehicles Act in India for reducing death related to road accident. Moreover, states should emulate the example of Tamil Nadu, which has recorded the maximum decline in fatalities, of almost 25% by having-

  • Crackdown on offences such as speeding, drunk driving and carrying passengers in goods carriers etc.
  • Strict implementation of compulsory helmet and seatbelt rules.
  • Starting Emergency Care Initiative.
  • Erection of signages, high-mast lights, clearing of parked vehicles from roads etc
  • Creating awareness about seat belt wearing, not talking on mobile phone while driving and other traffic rules.