The proposed law will be tabled in the next Cabinet meeting
The proposed Road Transport Act, which will be tabled in the Cabinet meeting next week, does not contain a provision for capital punishment.
Stakeholders have been demanding a capital punishment provision in the law for those responsible for deaths in fatal road accidents. But the highest punishment in the draft law is five years in jail.
The leaders of the transport associations are Cabinet members - Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan is the executive president of Bangladesh Road Transport Workers’ Federation while State Minister for Rural Development and Cooperative Division Moshiur Rahman Ranga is the president of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners’ Association.
The government took the initiative to formulate the Road Transport Act in 2009 but could not finalize the draft in its first five-year term which ended in 2014 as associations of road transport owners and workers raised objections against various provisions.
During the government’s second term, the Road Transport and Highways Division finalized a draft of the bill.
The draft will replace the existing Motor Vehicles Ordinance, 1983.
On March 27, 2017, the Cabinet approved in principle the draft of the Road Transport Act and made some observations.
The Road Transport and Highway Division sent the proposed draft to the Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs Division for vetting and revisions on April 17, 2017.
On January 4, 2018 the draft was analysed in a meeting chaired by Law Minister Anisul Huq.
The draft will be tabled in the next Cabinet meeting. After the Cabinet approves the bill, it will be placed before parliament for vetting. Then the bill will be enacted as law.
The demand for capital punishment gained momentum following the deaths of noted film director Tareque Masud and Chief Executive Officer of ATN News Mishuk Munier, who were killed in a road accident in Manikganj on August 13, 2013.
“If the draft of the Road Transport Act is enacted into law then it will be possible to ensure the highest punishment for those responsible for road accidents — and restore discipline on the roads,” Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said on Thursday.
He made the statement amidst ongoing student protests across Bangladesh, including Dhaka, demanding safe roads and justice for the deaths of two students in a road accident on Airport Road on July 29.
What is in the draft?
The proposed draft has 14 chapters and 144 sections.
Under the existing Motor Vehicles Ordinance 1983, the highest punishment is two years’ imprisonment and the minimum punishment is one month’s imprisonment. The maximum fine is Tk5,000 and the minimum fine is Tk100.
The proposed draft of the Road Transport Act has kept the provisions for maximum and minimum punishment. The maximum fine is not more than Tk5 lakh and the minimum fine is not more than Tk5,000.
Nothing was mentioned about the driver’s educational qualification in the ordinance but the proposed draft says a driver must have passed eighth grade and an assistant must have passed fifth grade.
If a driver does not have driving licence they will face six months’ imprisonment or pay fine of Tk50,000 or both.
If any unregistered helper assists the driver they will be sentenced to one month in jail or will have to pay Tk25,000 as fine.
Police can arrest drivers or their assistants without warrant for cognizable offence.
Drivers responsible for death or serious injury through road accident will be tried under the regular penal code following sections 302, 304, and 304 (b).
This draft law has a provision for insurance for passengers.
There is also a provision for removing illegal markets from the highways.
Owners can renew their licence from any Bangladesh Road Transport Authority office across the country.
The government will have the authority to fix the number of vehicles that a family or organization can use.
The proposed draft law has the provision for punishment for government officials if any accident occurs due to their negligence.
There will be punishment for those responsible for design, construction, and maintenance if any accident occurs due to their fault.
Drivers will have to pay Tk5,000 as fine for using mobile phone while driving. Similar punishment will be applicable to drivers who are found intoxicated.
For driving on the wrong side of the road, a driver will be sentenced to jail ranging from one to three months and pay fine ranging from Tk5,000 to Tk35,000.
If there is any casualty following an accident for racing between vehicles, the drivers will face three years in jail and a fine of Tk5 lakh.
Owners of unfit vehicles will be given one year imprisonment or pay fine of Tk1 lakh.
For violating limit of axle weight, drivers will face three years in jail or Tk3 lakh fine.
A driving licence will have 12 points. A driver will lose a point for each offence.
A driver’s licence will be canceled if they lose all 12 points for committing offences like not using a seat belt, using mobile phone, driving on the wrong side of the road and racing, reckless driving and misbehaving with passengers, and parking vehicles in a wrong place.
If anybody sits in the reserved seats for women, children, and persons with disabilities, they will be sentenced to one month in jail or pay fine of a maximum of Tk5,000.