Goa unveils new penalties for traffic offences; Opposition cries foul

Panaji, April 7 (IANS) Chief Minister Pramod Sawant-led government’s decision to notify rules for the central Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Act, 2019, which mandates heavy penalties for traffic related offences has triggered a new flashpoint between the Opposition and the BJP-led coalition government.

A day after the government notified the penalties — which are scheduled to be implemented from May 1 — opposition parties have accused the government of fleecing the state’s population, which is already reeling under the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Goa’s Transport Minister Mauvin Godinho however said that the state government has only opted for a minimum bracket of fines and penalties, which have been mandated by the amended law.

“With the notification of the new penalties, the government will basically pinch the already empty pockets of the people of Goa,” state Congress president Girish Chodankar said on Wednesday.

“We will not allow the government to implement the (amended) Motor Vehicle Act with steep hike in fines and penalties, till proper, safe and secure roads and infrastructure is put in place,” Chodankar also said.

According to the new penalty tariff unveiled by the Goa government, while driving a light motor vehicle without a valid licence attracted a penalty of Rs. 500, under the new tariff structure the fine has been increased to Rs. 1,500.

Fine for overspeeding has also been increased from Rs. 400 to Rs. 1,500. Those using mobile phones while driving light motor vehicles will be fined Rs. 3,000 for the first offence and Rs. 10,000 for subsequent offences, while previously the fine was limited to Rs. 500.

Repeated offences under the new central law would also result in suspension of the driver’s licence for three months.

According to Goa’s Transport Minister Mauvin Godinho, those who did not violate traffic norms had no reason to worry about the high penalties.

Godinho also said that the state government was only implementing a central law and the intention was not to harass the common man.

“Because we have the interest of the common man in mind, we have kept the fines at minimum. Where the range of penalties is between Rs. 1000 to Rs. 10000, we have kept it at Rs. 1000 only. We are not trying to pinch the pockets of the people to earn revenue. We are only following the central legislation, implementation of which was delayed in GOa due to the pandemic,” Godinho said.

The introduction of the new fine tariff comes at a time when political parties in the state are gearing up for the state assembly elections, which are scheduled to be held in early 2022.

Leader of Opposition Digambar Kamat said that the imposition of heavy fines would lead to a situation where owners of two wheelers and four wheelers will not be able to bring them onto the roads.

“The fines will lead to such a situation, where bikers and motorists will not be able to pay fines and will simply have to keep their vehicles idle,” Kamat said.

Shiv Sena in Goa has also opposed the new penalty tariff structure, claiming the state’s poorly maintained roads itself were death traps, which were a cause for a large chunk of road accidents.

“Bad engineering, potholes are common features of Goa’s roads. Before penalising the public with these fines, road engineers should be booked for the condition of roads every time there is an accident,” state Shiv Sena president Jitesh Kamat said.

Godinho, however, claims that the Opposition was trying to score brownie points by attacking the provisions of the amended law.

“We have to prevent death on the roads for which the new penalties are necessary. The opposition is trying to score brownie points by raising a ruckus,” Godinho said.