The Assam High Court has issued an interim order to ban the sales and registration of 140 car models that don’t pass the international crash test. The ban affects majority of the budget cars including the top selling models like the Maruti Swift, Alto, Hyundai i10, Tata Nano and even the recently launched Honda Jazz.
Addressing a petition filed in the North Eastern state, the high court ordered a ban on all the vehicles weighing under 1,500kgs and also those that don’t meet the crash test norms. The ban does not affect the bigger SUVs, as they supposedly have the capacity to absorb impact during a crash. Further the court has also directed the centre to not permit auto manufacturers from selling small four-wheelers and quadracycles under 1,500kgs, without putting them through a crash test and emission test. The high court decision that came in favour of the petition wants the Global NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme) that is followed in the developed market to be followed in Assam, since higher safety standards are required in mountainous regions.
The North Eastern states account for close to 12 per cent of total car sales in India. The ban will affect the car market, which is seeing a positive trend after a long while. The order has put majority of the carmakers in a quandary, and they are now trying to resolve the issue through SIAM (Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers).
While there is no denying that the Indian government has been lethargic in implementing measures regarding passenger safety, this ruling may not be a way out. Firstly, the ban does not take into consideration the fact that the cars meet all the requirements in India, which may not be a lot, but are in line with regulations set by the government. If any changes are required in the regulations, carmakers need time to implement the same. Also, the assumption that cars weighing over 1,500kg are safer may prove to be roadblock. Vehicle safety is mainly a function of design and safety features in a particular model.
The safety standards in India are supposed to change starting October 1, 2017 with the implementation of Bharat New vehicle Safety Assessment Programme (BNVSAP). The new standards will require all the new car models to pass the crash test at the ARAI facility in Pune.
As for the ban in Assam, the next hearing is scheduled for August 27, when hopefully SIAM will be able to present its side and get the mandate overturned.