The Madras High Court has quashed a notification dated April 6, 2018 issued by the Central government by which the speed limit was raised to 120 km/hour on express ways and 100 km/hr on national highways for M1 category motor vehicles.
A Bench of Justices N Kirubakaran (now retired) and V Thamilselvi passed the order after the Central government declined to withdraw the said notification and reduce the speed limit, despite the Court having urged the government to reconsider the same.
The Bench further issued directions to the State to fix speed limits in line with an August 5, 2014 notification, which had prescribed reduced speed limits before it was raised by the 2018 notification.
The Court was informed that a decision was taken in 2018 by the Central government to increase the speed limits, keeping in view the better engine technology and improved road infrastructure and after review by an Expert Committee. The 2018 notification had raised the speed limit to 120 km/hour on express ways and 100 km/hr on national highways for M1 category motor vehicles.
Besides M1 category vehicles, the 2018 notification in question had also raised the speed limits for other categories of vehicles, depending on the road traversed.
Unconvinced by the rationale, the Court remarked that though there is better engine technology and improved road infrastructure, there is no improvement in compliance with the road rules by the motorists.
"The number of deaths taking place on the road would prove that more accidents are occurring on road, due to over speeding, especially data regarding accidents due to over speeding in the year 2017 – 66.7%, in the year 2018 – 55.73% and in the year 2019 – 64.4%. When over speeding is a major cause for road accidents, it is not known as to how the improvement in the road infrastructure and engine technology would reduce accidents. In fact, better engine technology would always be a reason for uncontrolled speed and thereby, cause more number of accidents", the Court said. The Bench, therefore, proceeded to quash the April 2018 notification.
"The Speed limit is directed to be reduced as per the earlier notification dated 05.08.2014," the Court added. The larger issues concerning road safety and speeding were taken up by the Court suo motu while dealing with an appeal filed to enhance compensation in a motor accident case.
Earlier, on 30th March this year, the Court had issued a slew of directions to control overspeeding. The directions included the installation of speed governors, use of modern gadgets to identify errant drivers, making sure speed breakers do not cause accidents etc. In the same order, the Court had also asked the Centre to reconsider its 2018 decision to raise speed limits. Assistant Solicitor General Rajesh Vivekanandhan informed the Court recently that all directions issued have been complied with, save the direction to reduce the speed limit.
The Court placed on record its appreciation for having complied with the other directions. However, since the Centre declined to reduce speed limits, the Court cited its power under Article 227 (power of superintendence over all courts by the High Court) of the Constitution to reduce the speed limits to the earlier limits prescribed by the Centre in 2014.