Madras HC quashes order increasing speed limit to 120 kmph on highways

SC reserves order on Election Commission's plea against Madras HC remarks
File photo: The Madras High Court

Chennai: The Madras High Court has set aside a notification of the central government, fixing 120 kmph as the speed limit for vehicles plying on highways.

A division bench of Justices N Kirubakaran (since retired) and Justice T V Thamilselvi, which quashed the notification dated April 6, 2018, recently, also directed the Centre and the State to issue fresh notifications with decreased speed limit.

Originally, while passing interim orders on an appeal on March 3 this year, the bench, the other member being Justice Abdul Quddhose, increased the compensation amount from Rs 18.43 lakh to Rs 1.50 crore to the appellant - a dentist, who had suffered 90 per cent disability due to a road accident occurred in April 2013 in Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu.

The bench had also raised a set of 12 queries, the first of which was for a direction to the central government to reconsider its 2018 notification, increasing the speed limit to 120 kmph. The matter was posted in August for filing compliance report.

In its report, the Centre justified its action in increasing the speed limit.

It said that keeping in view the better engine technology and improved road infrastructure, an expert committee was constituted to review the speed limits of motor vehicles and as per its recommendations, the maximum speeds for vehicles on different roads had been revised by the Ministry in the April 6 2018 notification.

However, the present bench observed that though there was a better engine technology and improved road infrastructure, there was no improvement in compliance of the road safety rules by the motorists.

From the report released by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, the number of deaths taking place on roads would prove that more accidents were occurring due to over speeding.

When over speeding was a major cause for road accidents, it is not known as to how the improvement in road infrastructure and engine technology would reduce accidents. In fact, better engine technology would always be a reason for uncontrolled speed and thereby, cause more accidents, the bench said.

"Having known that over speeding is the main cause for road accidents, taking away the precious lives of people and causing damage to properties, the decision taken by the central government, as reflected in the notification dated April 6, 2018 is liable to be quashed." the bench said and accordingly quashed it.

It also said that the State and the central governments should reduce the speed limit as per August 5, 2014 notification and prescribed a set of speed limits for different types of vehicles.

"Though the matter arises under the Motor Vehicles Act, taking note of a dentist sustaining spinal cord injury and that she is unable to do any work on her own and that she has to depend on others throughout her life, this court invoking Article 226 of the Constitution, suo motu, in public interest, passed this judgment," the bench added.

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