January 07, 2020

State Governments cannot lower fines below prescribed limits in the Motor Vehicles Act: Centre

[ by Kavita Krishnan ]


The Central Government clarified on Monday that states cannot lower traffic penalties below the levels prescribed under the new Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 (Act). The new Act with stricter provisions came into force from September 1, 2019.

Under the amended Act, violations such as drunken driving and dangerous driving attract fines of Rs. 10,000 and/or imprisonment of six months to two years.

Penalty for driving without license was increased to Rs. 5,000 from Rs. 500 earlier, while riding two-wheeler without helmets will not only attract fine of Rs 1,000 but could lead to suspension of licenses for the next three months.

The road, transport and highways ministry said that the Act is a Parliamentary legislation and states shall have to adhere to the provisions of the Act and that the state governments cannot pass any law or take executive action to lower penalties below the prescribed limits set in the Act unless President’s assent has been obtained to the related state law, the Ministry said in an advisory to the states.

The transport ministry had sought legal advice on this from the law ministry as one of the states had notified amounts for compounding of certain offences lower to what has been prescribed in the new Act.

The Ministry of Law and Justice has tendered their advice after seeking opinion of Attorney General of India. The advisory to the principal secretaries of states also mentioned the legal opinion that in case of the failure of State Governments to implement the Act, reference may be made to Article 256 of the Constitution that authorizes the Union of India to issue directions to a State as may be necessary for the purpose.

The advisory also quoted Attorney General’s opinion that disobeying these directions by any State could well attract the provisions of Article 356 of the Constitution of India, which states that in the event that a State Government is unable to function according to constitutional provisions, the Central government can take direct control of the state machinery.

According to the government, the states of Gujarat, Karnataka, Manipur and Uttarakhand had reduced the penalties for certain offences.

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