The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019, with 108 votes in favour and 13 against. The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on July 23, but will be sent there again because of a typographical error.

The proposed legislation seeks to remove corruption, improve road safety and use technology to regulate traffic. It also aims to enforce stricter penalties for road traffic violations.

The bill proposes to increase the maximum penalty for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs from Rs 2,000 to Rs 10,000, News18 reported. If a vehicle manufacturer fails to comply with motor vehicle standards, the penalty will be a fine of up to Rs 100 crore, or imprisonment of up to one year, or both. If a contractor fails to comply with road design standards, the penalty will be a fine of up to one lakh rupees.

Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari refuted claims that the Centre was encroaching on the state governments’ rights to levy vehicle registration charge and permit fee. He said the amendments would instill fear of law in those who violate traffic rules.

The Congress, however, alleged that the Centre had “hoodwinked” the Rajya Sabha as the bill was “defective” and not in the form passed in the Lok Sabha last week. Gadkari denied the charge.

Lok Sabha

Earlier in the day, Opposition parties, including the Congress, walked out of the Lok Sabha demanding that the government respond to the car crash involving the Unnao rape complainant, PTI reported.

Leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury raised the matter in the House, saying Home Minister Amit Shah has not responded to the case despite the Opposition highlighting it repeatedly. Chowdhury said despite an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the car crash, family members of the woman claimed a threat to their lives.

Chowdhury said the Parliament had opposed the sexist remarks made about a woman MP and asked why it did not do the same when a woman’s life was under threat, The Indian Express reported.

Members of the Congress, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Nationalist Congress Party and Indian Union Muslim League walked out of the Lok Sabha in protest. Congress leader Sonia Gandhi also walked out.

Congress MP Manish Tewari gave an Adjournment Motion Notice in the Lok Sabha over the alleged harassment of Cafe Coffee Day founder VG Siddhartha by Income Tax officials, which allegedly led to his death, ANI reported. “I want to draw the attention of the government towards the suicide of businessman VG Siddhartha who in his letter stated that he faced harassment of income tax officials...” Tewari said, according to The Indian Express.

Speaker Om Birla, however, asked Tewari not to speak on matters that have not been investigated.

Meanwhile, the Lok Sabha passed the Inter-state River Water Dispute (Amendment) Bill, 2019, PTI reported. The bill seeks to streamline the adjudication of inter- state river water disputes.

Other proceedings

The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019, that proposes to allow the government to proscribe individuals as terrorists and to empower more officers of the National Investigation Agency to investigate cases was not taken up in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, according to News18.

Earlier in the day, Congress MP Ghulam Nabi Azad asked why bills listed to be sent to a select committee had been passed, ANI reported. “The Muslim Women Protection of Rights on Marriage Bill, 2019 and Unlawful Activities Prevention Amendment Bill were listed to go to select committee,” Azad said. “Yesterday’s bill [Muslim Women Protection of Rights on Marriage Bill] was listed at night and we were given to understand they haven’t considered it.”

Azad said: “My submission is on one side you seek list from Opposition for bills to be sent to select committee, [but] you don’t come back to us, and you get it passed. You tell your people to be present and we remain under illusion that bill is going to Select Committee. This is not done.”

‘Are we delivering pizzas?’

Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien also criticised the government for the pace at which bills have been passed in Parliament. “Parliament is supposed to scrutinize Bills,” O’Brien said on Twitter. “This chart explains the bulldozing this Session. Are we delivering pizzas or passing legislation?”

His chart showed that 60% and 71% of bills were scrutinised in Parliament during the 14th and 15th Lok Sabha. During the 16th Lok Sabha, after the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power, only 26% bills were put to scrutiny. During the current session of the 17th Lok Sabha, only 5% bills were scrutinised, meaning only one bill was scrutinised out of the 18 that were passed.

On Tuesday, the Trinamool Congress MP had said the way the bills were being passed amounted to a “mockery of Parliament” and was the government’s way of “smothering” the Opposition.