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States might lose road transport to Centre

The Road Transport and Safety Bill is likely to allow the Centre to "take road transport under its control"

Jyoti Mukul & Arijit Paladhi  |  New Delhi 

A new law on public transport will allow the Centre to prevail over state governments in case of a dispute. The Road Transport and Safety Bill is likely to have a section saying the Union government "should take road transport under its control".

In instances such as the Delhi government's ban on taxi-hailing services Uber and Ola, the Centre could issue enforceable advice to states not to ban these.

The Bill is likely to be approved by the Union Cabinet next week. The government is planning to table the Bill in the current session of Parliament.

Road transport is now governed by the Motor Vehicles Act and Central Motor Vehicle Rules. State governments have their own legal frameworks. The Centre is overhauling the regime by bringing in the Road Transport and Safety Bill, which will override the Motor Vehicles Act.

"It is expedient in the public interest that the Union should take road transport under its control," says Section 2 of the draft Bill. There was no provision entrusting the control of road transport to the Centre in the Motor Vehicles Act.

An official in the road transport ministry said the new law was designed to help states better organise road transport. On whether Section 2 would undermine state legislatures, he said the matter was in the concurrent list of the Constitution.

"The states and the Centre have well-defined roles and there is almost no overlapping of jurisdiction currently. In case of differences, the issues are referred to the Transport Development Council chaired by the Union transport minister. All state transport ministers are members of it," said S P Singh, coordinator of the Indian Foundation for Transport Research and Training.

He, however, said enforcement of transport laws was the prerogative of the states. "Since each state has different requirements, they have the freedom to make their own motor vehicle rules and successive amendments to the laws," he said.

Article 254 of the Constitution says in case of inconsistency between laws made by Parliament and those made by state legislatures on matters listed in the concurrent list, those made by Parliament will prevail. Item 35 in the concurrent list in the seventh schedule of the Constitution puts mechanically propelled vehicles, including the principle on which taxes on such vehicles can be levied, in the domain of both the Centre and the state governments.

The official said though penalty for violation of traffic rules and the system of punching to record repeated violations would be enforceable by the new law, states would be free to frame other rules like those on issuing carriage permits. "States can also opt for auctioning these permits," he said.

The proposed law will also bring in road safety provisions. The creation of a National Transport Authority and a Road Safety Authority would equip states in dealing with transport issues, the official said.

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First Published: Thu, April 23 2015. 00:57 IST