MAKING OUR ROADS SAFE :-
- The process of introducing legislation for road safety has been in the making for the past four years.
- The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in 2017. If passed by the Rajya Sabha, it will be the first of its kind to extensively reform existing legislation on road safety, the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.
- The Amendment Bill is robust and rectifies several systemic issues by providing for a uniform driver licensing system, protection of children and vulnerable road users, rationalising penalties, and much more.
WHO on Road Safety Management :-
- The World Health Organisation (WHO) points out that for effective road safety management, it is imperative to have an institutionalised and sustainable data system. This includes information pertaining to drivers, such as types of licences held and a record of violation of traffic laws.
Current Indian System For Driving License & Penalties:-
- The driver licensing system in India controls and filters the number and quality of drivers on the road.
- Currently, the procedure is largely manual, while the number of licences issued per year is over a crore.
- The inefficiencies of a manual system, results in lakhs of licences being issued without the prescribed checks and balances.
- In the absence of a central registry, often multiple licences are held by one person for different States.
- Low penalties for licensing offences.
Bill takes on License System & Penalties :-
- The Bill addresses each of these challenges by introducing technology in the licensing procedure. A digitised, uniform and centralised driver licensing system will go a long way in ensuring ease of access, efficiency and transparency in the filtering process.
- The Bill also proposes to introduce digitisation in the monitoring and enforcement of traffic laws. Electronic monitoring and enforcement can already be seen in practice in Kerala. The State has a ‘city surveillance and traffic monitoring system’, and automated traffic enforcement systems to detect traffic light violations as well as speeding.
Focus on Children :-
- Since 2008, in India, over 55,000 children have lost their lives in road accidents. In 2016 alone, 7% of road crash deaths were attributed to children below 18 years.
- The WHO asserts that using child-restraint systems in vehicles decreases the risk of death in a crash by about 70% for infants and 54-80% for small children.
- In the current piece of legislation, there is no provision for protection of children.
Bill Proposes :-
- To mandate the use of protective headgear by every person above the age of four driving, riding or being carried on a two-wheeler.
- Similarly, the Bill mandates the use of safety belts and child restraints for those under 14 years and introduces a fine of ₹1,000 for the driver or guardian for the violation of the same.
- For decades, penalties for behaviour that results in fatalities and grievous injuries have remained minimal, largely unrevised, and, consequently, have failed to deter violators.
Bill Proposes on Penalties :-
This Bill promises to rationalise these fines.
- The penalty for drunk driving has been increased to ₹10,000 for the first offence and ₹15,000 for the subsequent one.
- For exceeding lawful speeds, the penalty has been increased to ₹1,000 for light motor vehicles and ₹2,000-4,000 for medium and heavy motor vehicles.
- For the non-use of helmets and seat belts, the fines have been increased from ₹100 to ₹1,000.
Conclusion:- As a signatory to the Brasilia Declaration on Road Safety, India has committed to reducing, by 2020, the number of road crash fatalities and serious injuries by 50%. This will be impossible to achieve if the sole statute governing road safety in India, the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, is not overhauled. The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2017, will serve as the first and most essential step towards fulfilling this vision.
Brasilia Declaration on Road Safety :-
- Hosted by the Government of Brazil on 18-19 November 2015 in Brasilia, Brazil, and co-sponsored by WHO.
- 2nd Global High-Level Conference on Road Safety represented a historic opportunity to chart progress at the mid-point of the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020.
- At the close of the Conference, the 2200 delegates adopted the “Brasilia Declaration on Road Safety” through which they agreed ways to halve road traffic deaths by the end of this decade a key milestone within the new Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 3.6.
- Strategies to ensure the safety of all road users, particularly by improving laws and enforcement
- Making roads safer through infrastructural modifications
- Ensuring that vehicles are equipped with life-saving technologies
- Enhancing emergency trauma care systems.
- It also encourages WHO and partners to facilitate the development of targets to reduce road traffic crashes and fatalities, and support the definition and use of indicators linked to the SDG targets related to road safety.
- The declaration further urges states to adapt road safety policies for the benefit of the vulnerable road users, children, youth, older persons and persons with disabilities.
REFORM WITH CAUTION : ON CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM :-
The Centre’s decision to revisit the 2003 report of the Justice V.S. Malimath Committee on reforming the criminal justice system needs to be examined through the prism of civil rights.
Controversial Recommendations :-
It includes controversial recommendations such as :-
- Making confessions to a senior police officer admissible as evidence
- Diluting the standard of proof required for a criminal conviction.
Valuable Recommendations :-
- It also contains valuable suggestions to revamp the administration of criminal law, covering the entire gamut of the justice system from investigation to sentencing, from matters of policy to the nuances of criminal procedure and the law of evidence.
Malimath Committee Report :-
- The committee made 158 recommendations, and since then some of these have become law.
- Its suggestion on permitting videography of statements has been implemented.
- The definition of rape has been expanded and new offences against women have been added.
- Its advocacy of substantial witness protection has not been realised, but victim compensation is now part of law.
- The Malimath report suggests a standard of proof lower than the current ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ standard. It moots a ‘clear and convincing’ standard, that is, it is enough if the court is convinced that something is true. Such a measure would have adverse implications for suspects, and requires considerable deliberation.
Madhava Menon Committee :-
- As the Madhava Menon Committee’s ‘Draft National Policy on Criminal Justice’ (2007) noted, such popular dissatisfaction arises from the low rate of conviction, the apparent role of money and influence in the outcome of cases, delayed and denied justice, lack of protection to witnesses and inadequate attention to crime victims.
Lack of trust on Judiciary System :-
- The widespread perception that there is corruption on the one hand and a deep nexus between crime syndicates and politicians on the other, has added to the erosion of public confidence in the justice delivery system.
Conclusion :- In the name of revamping the law, investigation and trial should not be altered in a way that undermines the principles on which the justice system was founded.