With protests mounting over the new Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, Kerala Transport minister A K Saseendran on Monday urged Union minister Nitin Gadkari to bring in an ordinance, giving flexiblity to states to fix compounding fee at rates proportionate to the gravity of the offences and which was affordable to the public. The fine fixed in the Act as per the Union government's proposal are "very high and disproportionate to the gravity of offences", leading to large-scale public protest, he said in the letter. The minister said the state government had issued the notification as per Section 200 of the Act, revising the compounding fee from September 1. Earlier, there were provisions for flexiblity and the state government could fix the compounding fee upto a certain amount. However, now except in limited number of sections, this power has been withdrawn and the Centre itself has fixed the fine amount at a higher level, making it difficult for the state to fix the compounding fee below that fixed in the act,the copy of letter made available to PTI stated.
Hence as in the earlier provisions of the MV Act, the flexiblity for fixing the compounding fee proportionate to the gravity of offences and affordable to the common public by the state government should be restored, it was stated. The minister also urged Gadkari to take urgent steps to issue an ordinance amending the MV Act to remove the practical difficulties being faced by state governments and also to issue necessary clarifications to the state government. Kerala also wanted reduction of the fine and imprisonment in respect of other offences, which do not come under section 200 of the M V Act, Saseendran said in the letter. The state also wanted removal of the provisions allowing privatisation of the sector as suggested several times. The minister also pointed out that Kerala has a large NRI population who visit the state only once in five years.
They were finding it difficult to renew their licenses as the earlier provision of allowing renewal within five years of expiry has now been changed to within one year. Hence, as a one time measure, those whose licenses have expired in the last five years should be permitted to renew the same without undergoing the test as was applicable till September 1, the minister said. Only four states have issued the notifications till now and some have openly declared that they would not implement the new provisions of the Act, the minister pointed out. Earlier, after chairing a high-level meeting here to discuss the issue, the minister had told reporters that the state was prepared to wait for some more days until there was a clarity on the matter from the centre. During the "Onam" celebrations, the state had not implemented the new MV rules.
Kerala's decision to write to the centre comes close on the heels of the Union minister's statement that state governments can decide on the fines. On September 11, Gadkari, while addressing an event in New Delhi had said that the government's motive behind increasing the fine amount was to save lives of people and not to collect revenue. "The state government can decide on fines. There is no problem. But this is not a revenue earning proposal. This is for saving lives of people. We are losing two per cent of GDP due to road accidents.Is it not the responsibility of the government to save the lives of the people? That is the spirit behind the law. It was not the intention of the government to increase fines to get revenue for the government," Gadkari had said. Maharashtra Transport minister Diwakar Raote had requested Gadkari to reconsider and reduce the "exorbitantly increased" fines under the MV Act, while the BJP-ruled government in Gujarat has decided to drastically reduce the fines. The Jharkhand government has given a three-month breather to its people from the steep fines
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