Motor Vehicle Act, 1988: An Overview

Introduction

With the development of the society, the law governing it also becomes sensitive to various events associated to it. There are many rash acts, which were not considered earlier as such but today, are believed to be an act of negligence and have become actionable wrong. Accountable negligence consist in the neglect of use of ordinary care or skill towards a person to whom the defendant owes duty of observing ordinary care and skill by which neglect, the plaintiff have suffered injury to his person or property. Thus, negligence accompanied with losses to the other party give rise to an action [1].

The number of people who get killed in motor vehicle accidents is growing day by day. The main source to such helpless people and their dependants is the compensation that they are entitled to receive under law. But right from 1956, motor accident compensation law was in a state of flux. It was in that year that the legislature amended the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 by inserting several new sections. Over the years, many more amendments followed and in 1988, a new Motor Vehicles Act replaced the old one. Chapter 11 provides for insurance of motor vehicle against third party risk and Chapter 12 provides for the constitution of Claims Tribunal and adjudication of claim and related matters.

Pre-1988 Position

Before, the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 came into existence, the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 was applicable for all type of Motor Accidents. The Motor Vehicles Act, 1939, consolidates and amends the law relating to motor vehicles. This has been amended several times to keep it up to date. The need was, however, felt that this Act should, now inter alia, take into account also changes in the road transport technology, pattern of passenger and freight movements, developments, of the road network in the country and particularly the improved techniques in the motor vehicles management.

Various Committees,[2] like, National Transport Policy Committee, National Police Commission, Road Safety Committee, Low Powered Two – Wheelers Committee, as also the Law Commission have gone into different aspects of road transport. They have recommended updating, simplification and rationalization of this law. Several Members of Parliament have also urged for comprehensive review of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939, to make it relevant to the modern – day requirements. A Working Group was, therefore, constituted in January, 1984 to review all the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 and to submit draft proposals for a comprehensive legislation to replace the existing Act. This Working Group took into account the suggestions and recommendations earlier made by various bodies and institutions like Central Institute of Road Transport (CIRT), Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), and other transport organizations including, the manufacturers and the general public, Besides, obtaining comments of State Governments on the recommendations of the WorkingGroup, these were discussed in a specially convened meeting of Transport Ministers of all States and Union territories. Some of the more important modifications so suggested related for taking care of –

a. The fast increasing number of both commercial vehicles and personal vehicles in the country. b. The need for encouraging adoption of higher technology in automotive sector.

c. The greater flow of passenger and freight with the least impediments so that islands of isolation are not created leading to regional or local imbalances.

d. Concern for road safety standards, and pollution-control measures, standards for transportation of hazardous and explosive materials.

e. Simplification of procedure and policy liberalization’s for private sector operations in the road transport field.

f. Need for effective ways of tracking down traffic offenders[3].

The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988

The Supreme Court in M. K. Kunhimohammed v. P. A. Ahmedkutty[4], has made certain suggestions to raise the limit of compensation payable as a result of motor accidents in respect of death and permanent disablement in the event of there being no proof of fault on the part of the person involved in the accident and also in hit and run motor accidents and to remove certain disparities in the liability of the insurer to pay compensation depending upon the class or type of vehicles involved in the accident. The above suggestions made by the Supreme Court have been incorporated in the Bill of the Motor Vehicles.

The proposed legislation has been prepared in the light of the above background. Some of the more important provisions of the Bill provide for the following matters, namely:-

a. Rationalization of certain definitions with additions of certain new definitions of new types of vehicles.

b. Stricter procedures relating to grant of driving licences and the period of validity thereof.

c. Laying down of standards for the components and parts of motor vehicles.

d. Standards for anti-pollution control devices.

e. Provision for issuing fitness certificates of vehicles also by the authorized testing stations.

f. Enabling provision for updating the system of registration marks.

g. Liberalized schemes for grant of stage carriage permit on non nationalized routes, all-India Tourist permits and also national permits for goods carriages.

h. Administration of the Solatium Scheme by the General Insurance Corporation.

i. Provision for enhanced compensation in cases of “no fault liability” and in hit and run motor accidents.

j. Provision for payment of compensation by the insurer to the extent of actual liability to the victims of motor accidents irrespective of the class of vehicles.

k. Maintenance of State registers for driving licences and vehicle registration.

l. Constitution of Road Safety Councils.[5]

The Bill also seeks to provide for more deterrent punishment in the cases of certain offences.

The above suggestions which were incorporated in the Motor Vehicles Bill received the assent of the President on 14th October, 1988 and came on the Statute Book as Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. The Act came into force with effect from 1st July, 1989 replacing the Motor Vehicles Act, 19398.

The erstwhile Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 was repealed by section 217 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. Said section 217 also repealed all laws corresponding to the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939, then being in force in any State immediately before the commencement of the Act of 1988 in the respective states[6].

Scope and Objective

The Motor Vehicles Act[7], 1988 has been applicable to whole India and has been prepared to achieve the following objectives:

  1. To take care of the fast increasing number of both commercial vehicles and personal vehicles in the country.
  2. The need for encouraging adoption of higher technology in automotive sector.
  3. The greater flow of passenger and freight with the least impediments so that islands of isolation are not created leading to regional or local imbalances.
  4. Concern for road safety standards, and pollution-control measures, standards for transportation of hazardous and explosive materials.
  5. Simplification of procedure and policy liberalization’s for private sector operations in the road transport field.
  6. Need for effective ways of tracking down traffic offenders.
  7. Rationalization of certain definitions with additions of certain new definitions of new types of vehicles.
  8. Stricter procedures relating to grant of driving licences and the period of validity thereof.
  9. Laying down of standards for the components and parts of motor vehicles.
  10.  Standards for anti-pollution control devices.
  11. Provision for issuing fitness certificates of vehicles also by the authorized testing stations.
  12. Enabling provision for updating the system of registration marks.

Conclusion

The Motor Vehicle Act 1988 suggests various rules and regulation for the public and it has a huge importance in the traffic regulation, so that the system goes systematically and in a proper way. If any of the rules are violated there are serious punishments. This Act ensures everyone gets treated in a fair manner and to avoid disaster accidents.

[1] Kunal Mehta,“An Analyse of Law Relating to Accidents Claim in India”.
[2] The Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, Statement of Objects and Reasons.
[3] Ibid.
[4] (1987) 4 S.C.C. 284
[5] Supra n.2
[6] Supra n.2
[7] Supra n.2

 

Published in Civil Law
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