New Delhi: Many cities across India faced a shortage of petrol and diesel, as several petrol pumps were shut down due to a strike by truck drivers. The strike, which started on Saturday, was a protest against the amended Motor Vehicles Act, which came into effect on January 1, 2024. The new law imposes harsher penalties for road accidents, including 10 years of imprisonment or a fine of Rs 1 lakh for the driver.
The truck drivers, who are engaged in the transport sector, claimed that the new law was unfair and unjust, as it would make them liable for accidents that were not their fault. They also said that the law would increase corruption and harassment by the police and the transport authorities. They demanded that the government should revoke the new law and consult with the stakeholders before making any changes.
The strike has had a severe impact on the supply and prices of essential commodities, such as milk, vegetables and fruits. According to the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), which is leading the strike, more than 90 lakh trucks have stopped plying on the roads, affecting the movement of goods worth Rs 15,000 crore per day. The AIMTC also warned that if the strike continues, the situation may worsen and lead to a crisis.
The new Motor Vehicles Act, which was passed by the Parliament in 2023, aims to improve road safety and reduce fatalities. The law has increased the penalties for various offences, such as speeding, drunk driving, overloading, driving without a licence, insurance or pollution certificate, etc. The law also empowers the central government to recall defective vehicles and impose fines on manufacturers.
One of the most controversial provisions of the new law is section 104 (2), which deals with the cases of hit-and-run accidents. According to this section, if a driver flees from the scene of an accident, he or she will be charged with an offence punishable by imprisonment for 10 years or a fine of Rs 1 lakh, or both. The driver will also have to inform the police or the nearest magistrate within 24 hours of the accident, failing which he or she will be liable for the same punishment.
The previous law, which was based on the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988, had much lower penalties for road accidents. If a driver caused an accident, he or she would be booked under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 279 (rash driving), 304A (causing death by negligence) and 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life). The maximum punishment for these offences was two years of imprisonment. In some cases, the driver could also be charged with section 302 (murder) of the IPC, depending on the circumstances of the accident.