Gadkari says States can fix new traffic fine, breather for LDF ahead of Pala bypoll

Kerala govt in a spot over harsh traffic rules even as Gujarat finds a way out
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Thiruvananthapuram: In the face of growing public disenchantment against the new Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Act 2019, Union  Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari has put the ball on State governments' court, saying that latter can decide the fine amount for traffic violations.

The new act, which came into force on September 1, imposes heavy fine on the erring motorists. The issue has snowballed into a major controversy with law enforcement agencies facing the wrath of motorists across the country. 

“Motor Vehicles Act is in the Concurrent List of the Constitution, so States as well as the Centre can revise and frame rules under the amended Act. A declaration will be made soon,” he said on Wednesday.

Gadkari's statement appears to have triggered by the Gujarat government's decision to lower the penalty on Tuesday.

The announcement could allay the worries of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala, which feared that implementation of the Act would backfire in the upcoming Pala bypoll.

'Not to make money'

Gadkari said the motive behind heavy fine on traffic violators was to reduce accidents and not making money.

As per the provisions of the Act, states can revise about two dozen clauses out of the 63 which is in effect since September 1, though the that larger Act itself came into effect on August 9 after the Parliament passed it on July 31.

As about half a dozen states refused to implement the Act, the Motor Vehicles Department of Kerala had unofficially sought legal advice from experts on the matter. It was advised that it was not possible to withdraw a notification on an Act once issued.

The government could have withheld from implementing the Motor Vehicle Act, but now there is no way to undo the damage, legal experts had advised.

If the state government has to issue an ordinance to bring in changes in the high amount of fines stipulated in the Act, then it had to get the permission of the President of India, they added.

The Kerala government has decided not to enforce the fine during the Onam week.

Such was the unease with the new law that the Kerala Police have been reportedly given confidential orders to completely avoid vehicle inspections in Pala that goes to polls on September 23.

As the imposition of heavy fines were resented by motorists in Kerala as well, the state government had mulled over reviewing the implementation of the stringent Act, especially after the CPM apprised its own government about the adverse feedback from the ground.

Gujarat cuts fine

Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani announced on Tuesday that new penalties for traffic offences will come into force in Gujarat from September 16, reportedly said.

"The fine amount for different violations proposed under the Central law is the upper limit. Penalty collection is not our objective. We want people to be safe. The Gujarat government will enforce the law strictly wherever it is needed. We will be lenient wherever needed. That is why we will not impose any fine on pillion-riders," Rupani added.

Though six states, including Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan, had earlier announced that they would not implement the new Motor Act owing to its stringent provisions, none of them were ruled by the BJP.

Several reports of heavy fines being imposed on drivers have come from across the country soon after the new traffic rules were implemented. As penalties are now five times more than the previous ones, motorists booked for offences are in a dilemma.

Though the CPM had opposed the Bill in Parliament, the LDF government promptly implemented it in Kerala. The Nationalist Congress Party, which handles the transport portfolio in the state government, also did not make a political assessment either.

The Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), affiliated to the CPM, had also approached the Kerala government against the new law.

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