The Daily Star
Although the Road Transport Act was passed three years ago, its rules have not been formulated yet, preventing the authorities from executing some vital sections of the law which aims to curb crashes and bring discipline to the road transport sector.
In the meantime, the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) continues to carry out its day-to-day functions, including issuing vehicles’ registration and fitness certificates, following the rules of the now-defunct Motor Vehicles Ordinance-1983.
Under those rules, however, compensations cannot be handed to road accident victims and their families. So, they have to wait for the formation of a government trustee board under the new rules to get the compensation.
Road safety campaigners say several key sections of the Road Transport Act-2018 remain “ineffective” following “negotiations” between transport associations and the government since November 2019.
Also, at a time when the draft rules are still at the law ministry for vetting, the government has taken a move to amend the act in face of demands from road transport platforms. The government has already prepared a draft in this regard.
The government says the law is supposed to bring discipline in the road transport sector and curb road crashes. But after three years, road safety has not improved, rather it has only worsened.
The country witnessed a 40 percent rise in road accidents and deaths till July this year compared to the same period last year, shows police data.
As many as 3,095 people were killed in 3,259 road crashes till July this year, shows the data.
The numbers of road accidents and deaths were 2,609 and 2,635 respectively in 2018. The numbers rose to 4,198 and 3,918 respectively last year, according to the data.
Different road safety platforms say the numbers are much higher.
Talking on the issue, Supreme Court lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua said the road transport sector was one of the few sectors where transport owners’ and workers’ bodies hold enormous power due to their leaders’ direct links with the ruling party.
“So, the law is not being implemented properly here,” Jyotirmoy, also the vice chairman of Road Safety Foundation, told The Daily Star on Wednesday.
THE MUCH-TALKED ABOUT ACT
On September 19, 2018, the Jatiya Sangsad passed the Road Transport Act following an unprecedented student protest for road safety.
But the law did not come into effect until November 2019 as road transport associations called strikes against several sections of the law in October 2018.
The government, following a meeting between the home minister and transport leaders in November 2019, decided not to enforce several sections of the act till June 2020.
The government decided not to penalise those who drive large vehicles with licences for light or medium sized vehicles for that period. Later, the deadline was extended for another year.
The authorities would also not impose a fine on any vehicles that were modified for carrying containers. Commercial vehicles would also not be fined for illegal parking if there was no parking space.
Hossain Ahmed Majumdar, joint secretary of Bangladesh Covered-van Owners Association, admitted that police still do not file cases for operating such modified vehicles and the BRTA still issues fitness clearances to them.
IMPLEMENTATION YET TO START FOR SOME SECTIONS
Under the Motor Vehicles Ordinance-1983, road crash victims or their family members had the opportunity to seek compensations from the Motor Accident Claim Tribunal for death, injuries, and damages to properties.
But the ordinance was repealed after the act in question came into force in November 2019, narrowing victims’ scope for getting compensations.
In some cases, victims can now file writs with the High Court to get compensation.
As per the act, the government will create a fund for compensating and treating, if necessary, road crash victims.
The fund would be created with one-time or annual “contributions” from motor vehicle owners, transport associations, and the government.
The government will form a trustee board to manage the fund and related issues, the act says.
The relevant rules, however, have not been formulated.
The ministry on December 22 last year issued a circular, making BRTA chairman and its secretary the chairman and secretary of the trustee board with immediate effect.
BRTA Chairman Nur Mohammad Mazumder on Thursday said other members of the board were nominated and the ministry was expected to issue a gazette in this regard soon.
“We are expecting to hold our first meeting next week to discuss the organogram of the board and manpower recruitment issues,” he told The Daily Star.
However, the trustee board cannot deal with compensation-related issues until the relevant rules are formulated.
As per section 11 of the act, each driver will have 12 points against his or her driving licence and the point would be cut for violating traffic rules. His or her licence can also be cancelled for repeated offences.
The way the points would be cut or added would be determined by the rules.
BRTA officials said as the point-related issue is new in the country, they cannot be implemented until formulation of the rules.
WHEN WILL THE RULES COME?
After the law was passed, the road transport and bridges ministry tasked the BRTA with formulating a draft of the rules. After missing four deadlines, BRTA submitted a “partial” draft.
But the law ministry, where the draft was sent for vetting in 2019, rejected it and asked for a “complete” one.
The BRTA prepared the “completed” rules and sent them to the road transport ministry in September last year. The ministry sent the draft to the law ministry again in April this year, said officials aware of the development.
The draft is still pending with the law ministry for vetting, an additional secretary of the road transport ministry said on Tuesday.
Once vetted, it will be sent to the finance ministry for approval, as there are some issues related to fees for traffic rules violation, the additional secretary said, seeking anonymity.
The Cabinet Division’s approval would also be required before making the rules functional, he said, adding, “So it is not possible to say when the rules would come into action.”
Asked about the delay in framing the rules, the BRTA chairman said, “Formulation of a law or rules usually takes some time.”
MOVE FOR AMENDING LAW
In April, the road transport ministry uploaded a draft of the amended law on its official website. It held an inter-ministerial meeting on August 30 to discuss opinions from line ministries and individuals concerned on the draft.
As per the draft, at least 29 of the 126 sections of the act will be amended and punishment or fine under at least 14 sections would be reduced.
The law, if amended as per the draft, will lose its jurisdiction to hold a driver responsible for causing injuries by reckless and negligent driving.
The jurisdiction will only be applicable when someone dies in an accident.
The educational qualifications required to obtain a driving licence will also be changed. Drivers, who will operate registered three-wheelers, will get licences if they have a class-five certificate, instead of class eight, says the draft.
The Daily Star tried to contact Road Transport and Highway Division Secretary Nazrul Islam for comments, but could not reach him over the phone.
Talking on the issue, Jyotirmoy Barua said, “The move to amend the law even before its full implementation is nothing but a compromise [with transport associations.”