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India's timid motor vehicles law lets violators go scot free

Weak provisions in the Motor Vehicles Act that regulates the safety and emission norms of automobiles have led to violators getting off scot free in most cases in India.

In the case involving General Motors for instance, a government appointed panel had held the company guilty of committing corporate fraud as it had violated the technical specifications to meet emission norms in the manufacturing of its utility vehicle Tavera.

This had eventually forced the recall of 1.14 lakh Chevrolet Taveras – a popular multi-utility vehicle – one of the largest vehicle recalls in India till date. However no action has been taken against the company till now. Government sources state that the centre had passed the matter to the Gujarat government, which is yet to impose a fine.

In the Volkswagen case, the government is yet to come to a conclusion on the alleged use of defeat device by the company, as a panel of IIT experts is yet to come out with the findings.

Heavy industries minister Anant Geete had made repeated claims that the German car maker had accepted fixing the defeat device for emission test and that the matter had been referred to the transport ministry. But the transport ministry has maintained that the reports sent to them did not mention any evidence of such violation.

The issue is far more complicated in the case of GM. Since states have power to enforce the law, the Centre sent the issue to the state government. Although the Gujarat government was free to take action beyond the provisions of motor vehicles law since in the case of General Motors as "corporate fraud" was established, so far they have not acted although the fine could be upwards of Rs 3.4 crore.

Section 177 of the Motor Vehicles Act permits a penalty of Rs100 for first offence and Rs 300 for every subsequent offence. Another Rs 11.5 crore penalty can be imposed for recalling the faulty cars.