The much-talked about proposed Road Transport Act-2018 was placed in parliament last night, amid criticism over the “lenient” nature of the punishment over deaths caused by reckless driving.
The draft law retains the punishment of five years' imprisonment for causing death to a person by reckless driving, a sentence which road safety campaigners believe is insufficient.
The development comes over a month after the cabinet gave the final approval to the draft law.
Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader placed the proposed law before the House, which then sent it to the parliamentary standing committee of the ministry for scrutiny. The committee has been asked to submit its report within a week.
Once passed, the act would replace the existing Motor Vehicles Ordinance, 1983.
Against the backdrop of numerous incidents of deaths due to rash driving, road safety campaigners have long been demanding that the government increase the punishment for it to at least 10 years.
As per the existing law, three years' jail is the maximum punishment for this offence.
Meanwhile, campaigners also said the proposed law was rather soft on transport owners, as it held the drivers solely responsible for casualties in road crashes.
At a meeting on September 4, Obaidul, however, said the proposed act was not yet finalised and there was still scope for revision. He added that the parliamentary standing committee might seek experts' opinion on it.
In March last year, the cabinet approved in principle to the proposed legislation -- Road Transport Act -- but it remained shelved at the law ministry for more than a year for vetting amid opposition by transport owners and workers to some of its provisions.
Later, the government decided to place the draft act before the cabinet following the recent student agitation for road safety which came on the heels of the death of two college students in the capital on July 29.
MAIN FEATURES OF THE PROPOSED ACT
As per the proposed law, if anybody causes an accident by reckless and negligent driving, and kills or injures someone seriously, such person would face a maximum sentence of five years in jail or a fine of Tk five lakh or both.
However, if it is found that a driver has deliberately killed anyone or not averted a killing in a road accident, the matter would fall under either section 302 (murder) or 304 (culpable homicide) of the Penal Code, according to the explanation of the proposed act by the law minister.
The maximum punishment under section 302 of the Penal Code is the death penalty while it is life imprisonment under section 304.
As per the draft law, drivers must have an education not below the eighth grade, and nobody will be allowed to drive vehicles without a licence.
A person must be at least 18 to get a driving licence and 21 to get a professional licence. It will be mandatory for all to have a licence to be a conductor of a vehicle.
The draft law also has a provision for assigning 12 points to every driver. The driver will lose them for committing offences and when the points come down to zero, the driver's licence will be cancelled.
Additionally, a driver will lose points for nine types of offences, including drunk driving, illegal overtaking, reckless and dangerous driving, and violation of traffic signals and speed limits.
The government, through gazette notifications, can regulate the number of motor vehicles for a person, family, organisation and also for a certain area. It can also set working hours for drivers, conductors, helpers and other staffers in line with the labour law and the owners and recruiting authorities must follow those.
As per the draft law, 22 types of directives must be followed to drive motor vehicles, and a person may face imprisonment up to three months for violating those.
Action can be taken against any government official under the existing law if his or her negligence or fault causes an accident, reads the draft.
If any accident occurs due to faults in the design, manufacturing or maintenance of roads, the construction firm, the maintenance authorities and assigned persons will be held responsible, and action can be taken against them as per the existing law, it adds.
A person may face a highest of three years in jail or a fine of Tk three lakh or both, if he or she violates section 43 of the proposed law which deals with overloading and related issues.
The government will raise funds for the injured or family members of those killed in road accidents. Those will be overseen by a trustee board with representatives from different government agencies, highway police and organisations of transport owners and workers.
The funds will be raised with contribution from the government, transport owners and workers, with a portion of fines realised from the offenders.