Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, March 31
Apparently worried about the possibility of strong public reaction, the Road Transport and Highways Ministry has watered down the penalties it had originally proposed in the Draft Road Transport and Safety Bill.
Sources in the ministry said that the decision to water down the penalties in the Bill have been taken after consultation with various stakeholders and wide-ranging discussions.
There was huge opposition to bringing fines on a par with the best international laws and as such the reduction has been made primarily for first-time offenders.
There is, however, enough scope for changes in the Bill and there would not be any need to pass amendments in Parliament to increase or decrease penalties for traffic offences.
Reports said that while the original draft had proposed to dramatically step up punishments for rash driving, including the provision of seven years of jail if negligent driving resulted in the death of a child, the final version has brought it down to at least one year. Even the fine has been brought down from Rs 3 lakh to only Rs 50,000.
Dilutions have also been made in the penalty provisions for rash or negligent driving or driving under the influence of alcohol and even overloading, besides other offences.
Road transport ministry officials said that though the original provisions have been reduced, the ministry will get power under the proposed law to increase the fine and other penalties including imprisonment, suspension of driving licence and impounding vehicles as and when required.
As per the final version available on the ministry's website, while the older versions had provisions for fine from a minimum of Rs 5,000 to a maximum of Rs 12,500 for repeat offences for overspeeding, now it has been brought down between Rs 1,000 and Rs 6,000.
In the case of drunk driving and under the influence of alcohol, the fine has been brought down from Rs 30,000 to Rs 10,000, which can be increased to Rs 20,000 in case of a repeat offence.
Fines have also been reduced with the idea of stopping malpractices and the bribing of traffic policemen.
India has a notorious record of registering the highest number of road deaths -- over 1.38 lakh in 2013 -- and most of the fatalities are on account of over-speeding and drunk driving put together.
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