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Tamil Nadu opposes new Road Bill, says it encroaches upon state powers

"There is no corresponding provision in the draft Bill," Tamil Nadu Transport Minister Tamil V Senthilbalaji said.

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Updated:October 28, 2014, 8:04 PM IST
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Tamil Nadu opposes new Road Bill, says it encroaches upon state powers
"There is no corresponding provision in the draft Bill," Tamil Nadu Transport Minister Tamil V Senthilbalaji said.

New Delhi: Tamil Nadu on Tuesday vociferously opposed the proposed new Motor Vehicles Bill, saying it encroaches upon the financial, legislative and administrative powers of state governments.

"The Bill erodes and encroaches upon the powers of the state government... A major change in the existing set-up has been proposed. "The existing provision of the Motor Vehicles Act 1988 envisages that the state government shall establish Motor Vehicles Department and appoint officers for the purpose of implementing the Act. There is no corresponding provision in the draft Bill," Tamil Nadu Transport Minister Tamil V Senthilbalaji said. He was participating in a high-level meeting chaired by Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari.

The agenda of the meeting included discussion on the draft Road Transport and Safety Bill, 2014. The government hopes to get the Parliament approval for the Bill in the upcoming Winter session.

Senthilbalaji said the new Bill has a provision for Vehicle Regulation and Road Safety Authority of India encroaching upon the powers of state governments.

"This National Authority has been given sweeping and wide ranging powers for making regulations which hitherto were being done by the state governments," he said.

The Bill "makes serious inroads into the financial, legislative and administrative powers of the state governments .... The Motor Vehicle Tax, which is a major revenue source to the state's ex-chequer will be left to the decision of the National Authority. It will severely affect the state's revenue resources," he added.

The opposition came after Gadkari said Parliament approval was likely for the Bill in the upcoming session after consultations with states. Gadkari was addressing the 15th meeting of the National Road Safety Council and 36th meeting of Transport Development Council.

The government has proposed steep penalties of up to Rs 3 lakh along with a minimum seven-year imprisonment for death of a child in certain circumstances, besides huge fines for driving violations.

Gadkari said there will be unified driving licence system as well as vehicle registration system to check malpractices and corruption. Senthilbalaji said the Bill "envisages privatisation of licensing procedures and authorities which will be detrimental to the safety and security of the public and their welfare".

He also alleged that the role of the state transport corporations has been "totally obliterated" and the ability of corporations to provide affordable transport to the common man, particularly the marginalised, downtrodden and those in remote rural areas will be in jeopardy.

The Tamil Nadu Transport Minister alleged that even powers of issuance of inter-state and intra-state permits, which has been the exclusive preserve of the state government, have been abrogated and entrusted with the newly created independent authorities which are merely creatures of the proposed Act.

The competence of the state legislature and the state government to frame rules on road transport, public safety has been completely eroded and sought to be vested with statutory bodies to be created under the new Act, he said.

Also, he termed the penal provisions envisaged for traffic offences as "grossly contrary to the provisions of the IPC" and "unacceptable" demanding reconsideration of the provisions under the new Bill and "penalty provisions in tune with the IPC".

The new Road Safety and Transport Bill 2014 also proposes a fine of Rs 5 lakh per vehicle as well as imprisonment for faulty manufacturing design, besides cancellation of licences for rash and negligent driving.

The Bill, on which states' opinions are sought, proposes a penalty of up to Rs 1 lakh or imprisonment for six months which may extend to one year or both in case of using vehicle in unsafe conditions and state governments suggestions will be incorporated in it.

Senthilbalaji said: "The rationale to introduce such drastic changes and throw away lock, stock and barrel the existing provisions in the Motor Vehicle Act 1988 is totally unwarranted."

He said instead Tamil Nadu model has a system worth emulating. Gadkari said state's suggestions will be incorporating while finalising the draft for Cabinet nod.

He said e-governance will be encouraged under the new Act and there will be unified driving license system as well as vehicle registration system to check malpractices and corruption.

Transport Ministers and Commissioners of various states besides other officials were present during the meeting. The ministry has sought comments from public and stakeholders on the Bill and will thereafter finalise it for presentation to Parliament during the ensuing winter session.

The "Vision" of the Bill also states that 10 lakh jobs will be created by increased investments in the sector. Motor vehicles are to be regulated through improved designs and simplified single-window automated driving licence systems including unified biometric systems to avoid licence duplication.

The Bill has been drafted in sync with the best practises of six advanced nations - US, Canada, Singapore, Japan, Germany and the UK.

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