The Economic Times (ET) has reported that the road, transport and highways ministry has issued an advisory to states that the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 is a parliamentary legislation and the state governments cannot pass any law or take executive action to lower penalty below the prescribed limit unless President's approval has been obtained to allied state law. There was resistance and protests against the new act. According to those who were against the new Act, one of the key issues with it were the exorbitant challans.
The road transport and highways ministry had notified the new law with stricter provisions on September 1 and later notified over 60 sections including 24 offences. This made the transport ministry seek legal opinion whether states could set penalties below the prescribed range.
The road transport ministry has tendered advice to state governments to implement the amended motor vehicle law citing the opinion given by the Attorney General (AG). The AG has stated that no state government can reduce traffic fines on their own, which is less than the minimum notified amount in the Central law, unless there is President’s sanction.
The advisory to the principal secretaries of states also mentioned the legal opinion that in case of the failure of states to implement the Act, reference may be made to Article 256 of the Constitution that authorises the Union of India to issue directions to a state as may be necessary for the purpose.
Currently only eight states have notified the law and some of them have defied the legal provisions of the central Act by reducing fine for traffic offences, which is less than the benchmark fixed by the Centre. Attorney general, KK Venugopal has also opined that disobedience of Centre’s order “could well attract the provisions of Article 356 of the Constitution of India.”
BJP-ruled Gujarat was the first state to reduce the fines below the benchmark amount notified by the road transport ministry and many other states followed this. This had prompted the transport ministry to seek legal opinion whether the states could set penalties below the prescribed range under compoundable offences. In non-compoundable offences, the states cannot go below the prescribed limit.
An official told the ET "The AG’s opinion has put all confusion to rest including what power the states have with regard to this law. The amended Act aims to make roads safe by introducing stringent penalties for offenders of traffic and transport rules and also to check irregularities. Many states, which were on board when penalties were finalised in meeting of a group of state transport ministers (GoM), had later taken a U-turn. Now we hope every state will follow the central law.
AG Venugopal had earlier in December 2019 opined that since the amended MV Act is a parliamentary legislation, states cannot pass any law or issue any executive order to fix the penalty below the statutory provision of the central law without assent from President of India. He had also added that under Article-256 of the Constitution the central government can issue orders to states to follow suit.