Breather for motorists: No strict vehicle checks in Kerala during Onam holidays, review on cards

Kerala to go soft on erring motorists during Onam season

Thiruvananthapuram: As motorists seethe against new stringent traffic rules, a high-level meeting attended by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has decided not to enforce them vigorously during the ongoing festival season.

Confirming this, Transport Minister A K Saseendran said the government will seek legal opinion for revising the new Motor Vehicles Act.

“The chief minister has directed to go soft on erring motorists in line with the Left Democratic Front's (LDF) policy” he said.

There will not be strict vehicle checks during Onam holidays, CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said. "A review can be expected after it," he said.

Steep rise in fine amounts had created law and order issues. The CPM leadership had advised the government against implementing the amendment. Higher fines will prove to be detrimental, he added, while pointing out that some states had chosen not to go ahead with the new law.

While pointing out that not all states have implemented the Centre's law, the CPM party secretariat has asked the government to check into the legal aspect. As huge fines are being levied even for minor offences, it is causing several law and order issues in various parts of the state. Those who are being apprehended by the police, refuse to pay the fine and end up arguing with the cops. As the police and the Motor Vehicles Department are responsible for implementing the law, the state government would have to bear the brunt of the public resentment, the party reasoned.

Rs 46 lakh in 4 days

Within just four days (September 1-4) after the new rules came into force the government collected Rs 46 lakh in fines.

The amount was collected from incidents of 1,758 traffic violations in the state. The amount is likely to go up as several people who received the government notice are yet to pay up.

Motor Vehicles Department officials say that with higher fines, the number of traffic violations have reduced drastically.

Chennithala steps in

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala too came out against the steep fines.

Kodiyeri has to exert pressure on the government against the move if he meant what he said, Chennithala challenged. The centre took an arbitrary decision. Several states have not gone ahead with it. Kerala’s roads are in ruin. It cannot tow the centre’s line, he said.

Draconian law

With the new Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act in effect since September 1, several reports of heavy fines being imposed on drivers have come from across the country.

As penalties are now five times more than the previous ones, motorists booked for offences are in a dilemma.

The widespread resentment against the exacting provisions of the new law had forced the CPM to ask its own Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala whether the implementation of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act in the state could be postponed.

The new law imposes heavy fine and even imprisonment for traffic violations.

Citing it to be impractical, six states, including Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan, are yet to implement the Act that came into effect on September 1. They plan to approach the Supreme Court against it and plan awareness drives on the new traffic rules.

West Bengal was the first state not to implement the new law.

Though the CPM had opposed the Bill in Parliament, the LDF government promptly implemented it in Kerala. The Nationalist Congress Party, which handles the transport portfolio, also did not make a political assessment either.

The Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), affiliated to the CPM, has also approached the government against the new law.

Sunday's meeting was convened primarily to review the effectiveness of the laser speed guns deployed by the Motor Vehicle Department to catch overspeeding vehicles. They were reportedly not helpful as a few recent major accident cases proved. At the meeting it was decided to make all the cameras functional.