The Road Transport Act 2018 that replaces the old Motor Vehicle Ordinance 1983 is an attempt by the parliament to improve the road transportation and safety adopting the changes in the sector. While introducing many new provisions, the new law has introduced a new provision that imposes restriction on modification of vehicles.
The new provision prohibits changing of any technical specifications as determined by the BRTA such as length, width, height, number of seats, wheel base, rear overhang, front overhang, side overhang, nature, size and position of wheel, brake, steering wheel, gear, horn, safety glass, indicator light and reflector, speed governor, exhaust system and quantity of carbon emission, sound control level and equivalent equipment. However, there is a provision in the law that allows a person to make internal and external technical modification with permission from the BRTA.
It must be noted that the law allows the replacement of motor parts to be made without permission as long as it meets the technical specifications recorded at the BRTA at the time of the registration.
According to the law, any such modifications of the motor vehicles without permission from the BRTA shall be deemed as an offence with a punishment of minimum of one-year jail sentence and maximum of three-year jail sentence or a fine of maximum Tk3 lakh or both jail sentence and fine. This means that literally any kind of change no matter how small after registration has to be done with permission from the BRTA and any modification without permission can result in a long-term jail sentence or hefty fine or both.
Modification of motor vehicles has grown into an industry in itself in Bangladesh over the years and has been expanding ever since. Although it is presumed that most of the customers of this industry are young car enthusiasts, this sector is flourishing every day. It has been a major source of employment and government revenue because of the increasing customer base from the general motor vehicle owners. The requirement under the new law is likely to create fear of administrative hassle in the process of seeking permission from the BRTA among vehicle owners. It will invariably create a downfall on the sale of motor vehicle parts resulting in a negative impact on the overall motor vehicle industry.
The requirement under the new law is likely to create fear of administrative hassle in the process of seeking permission from the BRTA among vehicle owners. It will invariably create a downfall on the sale of motor vehicle parts resulting in a negative impact on the overall motor vehicle industry.
Currently, the registration and fitness certificates issued by the BRTA contain only some basic information regarding the technical specifications of the motor vehicles rather than every detail required by the new law. Practically, the law enforcement agency shall face difficulty in identifying any illegal modification except in regards to the technical specifications that are already recorded in the registration and fitness certificates of the motor vehicles issued by the BRTA. Unless and until every single detail as to external and internal features and technical specifications of the motor vehicles are recorded in the registration and fitness certificates, the law is unlikely to be rightly enforced either by the BRTA or the traffic police and the ensuing confusion shall create scope for abuse of the law and the process by the concerned government authorities.
Although the previous law had both punishments of monetary fine and jail terms, the new law has significantly raised the fine amount and increased the jail term. While this approach by the parliament is commendable due to the extent of violation of law that has been prevailing on the roads of Bangladesh for a long time, it must also be ensured that these provisions are rightly interpreted and enforced without any abuse by the law enforcement authorities and the BRTA. The government should pay attention to the negative impact on the socioeconomic aspect and confusion creating scope for abuse of this provision by the BRTA and the law enforcement agencies is something that the government may pay attention to.
Advocate Tanjim Rafeed assisted in research for writing this article.