Md. Mamonor Rashid
The Road transport Act is needed for making the motor vehicles and road transport system planned, technology-based, environment-friendly and efficient. Recently on 27 March 2017, the cabinet has approved in principle the draft of the Road Transport Act.
Under objectives of the bill, the role Bangladesh Road Transport Authority is important for bringing discipline in road transport sector, reducing road accident and raising mass awareness about road safety. The bill stipulated that BRTA would provide licenses to drivers and driving instructors, motor vehicles registration, route permits and fitness certificates and oversee passengers and goods transport services and all activities regarding road safety matters.
BRTA will also fix traffic signals, speed level, excel load that it would provide report about road accident and carry out works of ensuring road safety. The authority would make a comprehensive plan of route network and execute outside the area of Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority and implement it.
Under this BRTA Bill, one needs to pass eighth grade to be a driver and fifth grade for being his assistant. A conductor has to have good manners and be at least 18 years old to get the licence. Sections 13, 14 and 15 of the Act deal with licencing provisions. Literacy and numeracy have been referred as qualifying condition to get licence for a conductor in the proposed Act as well.
Likewise, in veracity, children are not only employed as conductors but they too drive vehicles on some routes. A report published in one of the Bangla dailies (Prothom Alo, 12 December 2016) revealed that a significant percentage (35%) of drivers plying human haulers, locally known as Leguna are children between 13 and 18. These children are plying vehicles in 15 routes without valid driving license and some under-age drivers got severely injured in road accidents. In absence of adequate provisions of education and training, children from disadvantaged communities are engaging in hazardous forms of labours in huge numbers.
Even if many children drop out of the formal education system and get engaged with different forms of labour, Article 17 of the Constitution guarantees free and compulsory education for all. Even though there is a requirement to have literacy skill in order to acquire licence of conductor in the proposed Road Transport Act, opportunities to gain literacy and numeracy skills are limited for those down-trodden children.
However, the draft did not suggest any separate punishment for death through road accident by negligence of driver or reckless driving. The draft says punishment for death through road accident will be awarded as per the Bangladesh Penal Code, 1860.
The section 304 of the Penal Code says whoever commits culpable homicide not amounting to murder shall be punished with life imprisonment or imprisonment of the either description for a term which may be extended to ten years. Sections 304 (A) and 304 (B) states that maximum punishment shall be five years and three years in jail for road accident cases.
A Manikganj court sentenced bus driver Jamil Hossain to life imprisonment as per section 304 for the death of filmmaker Tareque Masud and journalist Mishuk Munier in a road accident. However the victim’s family wanted the charge to be framed under section 302 of the Penal Code which allows the provision of death penalty or life imprisonment. But for years now, debates have been going on about what punishment should be fixed for deaths by road accidents.
The verdict of Tareque and Mishuk death case should be set as an example for similar trails in the future. The draft of the Road Transport Act should consider suggestions in line with the case’s verdict to work in the prevention of similar accidents.
Since 2010 the government has been trying to upgrade the law as the existing legal framework is not able to bring discipline to the road transport sector. Although a draft was ready in 2011, it was cancelled under pressure from transport owners and workers. Four years later, the draft law on road transportation has been completed by the Road Transport and Highways Division. With the enactment of new law, we expect that positive changes will come in this sector for public interest.
The writer is an Associate of Chowdhury Mukimuddin & Associates . He is the Sub-Editor of BdLawNews.com (English Version) and the Regular Contributor of the Law & Public Page of The Bangladesh Today. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org