The nationwide trucker protest has been cancelled after the government assured that it would consult stakeholders prior to enforcing a controversial hit-and-run law.
Following extensive discussions with the government, the All-India Motor Transport Congress decided to end the demonstration.
"We had a discussion with All India Motor Transport Congress representatives... the government wants to say that the new rule has not been implemented yet. We all want to say that before implementing Bharatiya Nyaya Samhita 106/2, we will have a discussion with All India Motor Transport Congress representatives and then only we will take a decision," Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said on Tuesday (2 January) evening.
Bal Malkit, the chairman of the AIMTC's core committee, has confirmed that the new laws have not yet been implemented and will only be put into effect following consultation with the All India Transport Congress.
The protest was in response to Section 106(2) of the Bharatiya Nyaya Samhita (BNS), slated to supplant the colonial-era Indian Penal Code. This section includes severe penalties for hit-and-run incidents. Truck drivers had warned of a nationwide strike, sparking fears of fuel and essential goods shortages.
The protests had spread across multiple states, including Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar, Punjab, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
The new law stipulates that hit-and-run incidents can now result in a maximum of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 7 lakh, a significant increase from the previous penalty of a maximum two-year jail term and a lesser fine.
The harshest punishment of a 10-year sentence will be enforced in cases where the culprit has caused a fatality due to reckless driving and fled the scene without notifying the police.
Operators of commercial vehicles, including truckers and cab drivers, are expressing concerns about their ability to afford the high penalties should they be involved in an accident.
Experts have warned about the possibility of misuse of the law, the process of informing authorities given the risk of public anger, and the nature of evidence that will be acceptable in case of a dispute.
Kuldeep is Senior Editor (Newsroom) at Swarajya. He tweets at @kaydnegi.
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