Motor vehicle Act 1988

Last updated: December 2020 | 6 min read


The number of people who get killed in motor vehicle accidents is growing day by day. The main source to such helpless people and their dependants is the compensation that they are entitled to receive under law. But right from 1956, motor accident compensation law has been in a state of flux. It was in that year that the legislature amended the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 by inserting several new sections. Over the years, many more amendments followed and in 1988, a new Motor Vehicles Act replaced the old one. There are various new rights created by the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 for claiming compensation in case of any death or bodily injury caused in an accident arising out of the use of a motor vehicle.

Over the years, the judiciary has not only been called upon from time to time to interpret these statutory provisions and apply them to different facts and situations, but also to lay down the legal principles for assessing compensation. The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 does not provide any guidelines for the identification of the items of loss to be compensated; nor does it lay down any criteria for the computation of the quantum of compensation for each item of loss. The author has successfully dealt with such and other important questions.

Comprehensive view of the provision of the Act

An attempt has been made to make a comprehensive review of all aspects of the Motor Accident Compensation Law as per the new Act of 1988. An  Act  to  consolidate  and  amend  the  law  relating  to  motor  vehicles. It be enacted  by  parliament  in  the  Thirty-ninth  Year  of  the  Republic  of  India  as  follows .The  objective  and  Reason for the act were,  the motor  vehicles  Act,  1939  (4 of 1939),  consolidates  and  amends  the  law  relating  to  motor  vehicles.  This  has been  amended  several  times  to  keep  it  up  to  date.  The  need  was,  however,  felt that  this  Act  should, now  inter  alia,  take  into  account  also  changes  in  the  road transport  technology,  pattern  of  passenger  and  freight  movements,  developments, of  the  road  network  in  the  country  and  particularly  the  improved  techniques  in the  motor  vehicles  management.

Various  Committees,  like,  National  Transport  Policy  Committee, National  Police  Commission,  Road  Safety  Committee,  Low  Powered  Two ,Wheelers  Committee,  as  also  the  Law  Commission  have  gone  into  different aspects  of  road  transport.  They have recommended updating, simplification and rationalization of this law.  Several  Members  of  Parliament  have  also  urged  for comprehensive  review  of  the  Motor  Vehicles  Act, 1939,  to  make  it  relevant  to  the  modern – day  requirements.  A  Working  Group  was,  therefore,  constituted  in  January, 1984  to  review  all  the  provisions  of  the  Motor  Vehicles  Act, 1939  and  to  submit  draft proposals  for  a  comprehensive  legislation  to  replace  the  existing  Act.  This Working Group  took  into  account  the  suggestions  and  recommendations  earlier made  by  various  bodies  and  institutions  like  Central  Institute  of  Road  Transport.

After  the  coming  into  force  of  the  Motor  Vehicles  Act, 1988, Government  received  a  number  of  representations  and suggestions  from the state govt. transport operators and members of  public  regarding  the  inconvenience  faced by  them  because  of  the operation  of  some  of  the  provisions  of   the  1988  Act.

New Developments

There has been important  suggestions  made  by  the  Transport  Development  Council  relate  to, are the introduction of newertype of vehicles and fast increasing  number  of  both  commercial  and  personal  vehicles  in  the  country. Providing  adequate  compensation  to  victims  of  road  accidents  without  going  into  longdrawn  procedure, Protecting consumers’  interest  in  Transport  Sector, concern  for  road  safety  standards,  transport  of  hazardous chemicals  and  pollution  controldelegation  of  greater  powers  to  State  Transport  Authorities  and  rationalising  the  role  of  public  authorities  in  certain  matters, the  simplification  of  procedures  and  policy  liberalisation  in the  field  of  Road  Transport,enhancing penalties for traffic offenders.

Report  had  recommended  that every  application  for a  claim  be  made  to  the  Claims  Tribunal having  jurisdiction over  the  area  in  which  the  accident  occurred  or  to the  Claims  Tribunal  within  the  local  limits  of  whose  jurisdiction  the  claimant  resides  or  carries  on  business  or  within  the  local  limits  of  whose  jurisdiction  the  defendant  resides,  at  the option  of  the  claimant.The bill also makes necessary provision to give effectto the said recommendation.


The Motor Vehicle Act 1988 suggests various rules and regulation for the public and it has a huge importance in the traffic regulation, so that the system goes systematically and in a proper way. If any of the rules are violated there are serious punishments. This Act ensures everyone gets treated in a fair manner and to avoid disaster accidents.

Full text of "Motor vehicle Act 1988" available here

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