The Road Transport Act-2018 is yet to be brought into effect a month after the president's approval, allegedly due to a movement against the law by transport workers.
The act was approved by the president on October 8-- the same day the Digital Security Act-2018 was approved. The laws were passed in parliament on September 19. However, the Digital Security Act has already come into force with “immediate effect” and several cases have been filed under the controversial law.
Road-safety campaigners alleged that the delay in implementation of the law was due to pressure created by transport workers and a number of officials at the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) have agreed with the claims.
“We think the top authority is taking time … due to pressure from transport workers,” said an official of the BRTA, preferring anonymity.
Road and transport ministry officials, however, said that the delay stems from inability in completing the rules of procedure.
Nazrul Islam, secretary of Road Transport and Highway Division, told The Daily Star last week, “The rules [of procedure] are necessary to implement the law. And we have already directed the BRTA to formulate the rules.”
He also said that it was not true that transport workers' movement, that virtually crippled the country recently, was related to the delay.
“It normally takes six months to formulate rules of procedure,” said Supreme Court lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua, adding, “But in our country, it is not followed in many cases. There are instances where rules have not been formulated for years but the laws have come into effect.”
The Digital Security Act was implemented without the formulation of rules of procedure.
The government's stance that the act cannot be made effective as the rules have not been prepared, is a “pathetic excuse”, said Barua, also vice-chairman of the Road Safety Foundation, a non-government organisation advocating safe roads.
Meanwhile, Mozammel Hoque Chowdhury, secretary general of Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity, said the government did not make the law effective due to pressure from transport owners and workers.
“We also said there are some shortcomings in the act, which can be removed through amendments. But the government exposed its weakness by not making the law effective,” he told this correspondent last week.
Following the passing of the act, the Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation observed a two-day strike on October 28-29 to press home their eight-point demands that included revoking the Tk 5 lakh fine for causing road accidents, making all accident related cases “bailable”, and reducing the mandatory educational qualifications from class-VIII to class-V for getting a driving licence.
The Bangladesh Goods Transport Owners Workers United Council, a forum of transport owners and workers carrying goods, also observed a strike for three days in Dhaka early last month to press home similar demands.
The federation also threatened to wage a tougher movement if the act was not amended in line with their demands.
Osman Ali, the federation's general secretary, however, denied the allegations of creating any pressure.
“We have demanded and are still demanding amendments in the law but we did not say anything about when the government should bring the law into effect,” he told The Daily Star on Tuesday.
At the moment though, nobody can say how long it will take to complete the rules of procedure, following which a gazette notification would make the law effective. Section 1(2) of the Road Transport Act says the government, through a gazette notification, will determine when the law will come into action.
In the meantime, the BRTA has to keep using the existing law -- Motor Vehicle Ordinance-1983 -- for their work, including operation of mobile courts.
“We are following the previous law as no gazette was published to make the new law effective,” said Mahbub-E-Rabbani, director (road safety) and spokesperson of BRTA, adding, “only the higher authorities can say why it [gazette] has not been published yet.”