DHAKA: The Bangladesh Cabinet on Monday approved the draft of the Road Transport Act 2018, with a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment and a fine of Bangladeshi Taka (BDT) 500,000 ($5,000) for drivers found involved in rash accidents resulting in roadside deaths.
The Cabinet nodded to the new road safety law to placate thousands of students who have been protesting on the streets across the country since July 29, demanding road safety.
But the proposed new act will not make the civil society and passengers in the country happy.
According to the draft law, it will now be mandatory for a driver to have completed his 8th grade education to obtain a driving license. The new law also proposes the death penalty for drivers found guilty of negligence that results in roadside deaths.
Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam highlighted parts of the new draft while talking to media at the Secretariat after the cabinet meeting.
“We preferred a tougher law. This legislation has only added to our frustration,” said Mozammel Haque Chowdhury, Secretary of the Bangladesh Passenger Welfare Association.
“In the case of road transport issues, we have noticed the government always sits with the transport owners and workers. But there is no representation from the passengers who are the major stakeholders in the transport sector, and that is why passengers’ interests are not addressed properly.
“In the law, we are demanding a separate authority for the investigation of roadside accidents since it requires a different type of expertise. Otherwise, due to weakness of the investigation process, the culprits can’t be punished properly, which we have experienced in the past.”
The proposed law has failed to fulfill the expectation of the people, said advocate Monjil Morshed, President of Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh (HRPB). In 2016, the country’s high court gave a verdict against a writ petition filed by HRPB demanding that in the case of death in road accidents the accused should be sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment.
“I noticed that in the proposed law, the maximum punishment level has been decreased, which is not in accord with the demand of the people,” said Monjil.
The draft law will now be forwarded to parliament for enactment as soon as possible.
“However, in the new law, the offense is treated as a non-bailable offense and the inclusion of 12 points on the driving license is a good thing,” Monjil added.
In the proposed law, in the case of any accident the driver will lose one single point of his license and if any driver commits 12 such accidents, his license will be canceled.
In Bangladesh, about 20 people die in road accidents every day, according to the Bangladesh Passenger Welfare Association. In the past 42 months, more than 25,000 people died in road accidents while more than 62,000 were injured, notes the BPWA.
Students’ protests entered the ninth consecutive day in Dhaka, paralyzing the country and forcing the government to pay heed to the issue. Clashes have been reported on Dhaka University campus between general students and the ruling party student wing, Bangladesh Chatra League. Clashes were also reported in East West and North South University campus, which are the country’s two leading private universities.