SUM Net’s meeting with Jairam Ramesh in July 2017 for concerns over Clause 48 of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment Bill) 2017 bore notable changes after it was referred to a Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha. SUM Net’s secretariat organization- Parisar- was invited to depose before the committee. The issue of Clause 48 which gives a free hand to States to ban pedestrians and cyclists from highways and public places was raised before the Committee.
The Committee stated that protection of pedestrians, cyclists and bus users should be given importance by the State enforcement agencies and to this end added the following to its report:
Protection to pedestrians, cyclists and bus users
596. Pedestrians, Cyclists and bus users should be protected. It was submitted to the Committee that the Amendment Bill makes the Motor vehicle law even better. The focus should be on sustainable mobility wherein the pedestrians, cyclists and bus users should be the centre of policy making. The increase of penalties indicates that one need to drive properly because the drivers are causing accidents. The focus worldwide has shifted to creating safety systems where it is understandable that people will make mistakes, people won’t be perfect driver, but still people should not lose lives or result in serious injuries. The Committee notes that the law is good and there are sufficient rule and regulations to promote road safety; enforcement still remains the key factor to improve the road safety. The Committee is aware that pedestrians and cyclists and non-mechanically propelled vehicles are coming under the domain of the State Government.
597. The Committee, therefore, recommends that the enforcement agencies of the States should scrupulously implement the law to protect the pedestrians, cyclists and the bus users.
With regards to Clause 48, the following was stated:
Clause 48: Provides for amendment of Section 138.
403. In section 138 of the principal Act, after sub-section (1), the following sub-section shall be inserted, namely:— “(1A) The State Government may, in the interest of road safety, make rules for the purposes of regulating the activities and access of non mechanically propelled vehicles and pedestrians to public places and national highways: Provided that in the case of national highways, such rules shall be framed in consultation with the National Highways Authority of India.”.
404. Clause 48 seeks to amend section 138 of the principal Act in order to empower States to regulate pedestrians and non motorised transport from the point of view of road safety, including access to roads for different types of vehicles.
405. Some Members were of the view that after the words ― “National Highways”, the words ― “by making alternative arrangements of rehabilitation of those dislodged” be inserted.
Views of stakeholders
406. Some stakeholders were of the view that Item 13 on List II of the Seventh Schedule (“State List”) includes ― “vehicles other than mechanically propelled vehicles”. As per Article 246 (“Subject- matter of laws made by Parliament and by the Legislatures of States”) State Legislatures have exclusive power to make laws with respect to this matter and hence inclusion of this section in this Central Act is unconstitutional.
407. Further, there is a widespread erroneous belief that somehow cyclists and pedestrians are unruly and cause traffic accidents. Most safety experts believe that pedestrians and cyclists (and cycle rickshaws) are vulnerable road users and must have adequate protection on the streets. This subsection will give powers to State Governments. to arbitrarily ban, by notification, pedestrians, cyclists and cycle rickshaws from any public place and highways. Highways are used by cyclists and pedestrians in rural areas. Any ban will affect local people, especially the poor and long-distance cycling enthusiasts.
408. Activists have already raised alarm bells about this proposal. The Ministry, in response has denied any such move and has ruled out any move to ban cycling on roads.
409. Thus, it has been suggested it has been that this sub-section may be deleted.
Views of the Government
410. In response thereto, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has stated that this is a rule making power of the States to ensure regulation of access of non-mechanised vehicles and pedestrians in the interest of road safety. There is no question of any person being dislodged in the course of implementation of such rules.
411. The Committee noted the reply of the Ministry and adopted Clause 48 without any amendment.
Though far from satisfactory, SUM Net believes that making an intervention and putting forth the views held by SUM Net in a democratic process is no less achievement.