Proposed amendments in law affecting the lives of road accident victims and the offenders

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                         Much needed reforms in Road Accident Cases

  • Nearly 1.46 Lakh people lost their lives on the Indian Roads last year and approximately 1.50 Lakh people lost their lives in road accidents in our country in the year 2016.
  • Maximum no. of people who died in road accidents were in the age group of 15-34 years.
  • As per the available data, every 4 minutes 1 person loses his life on the Indian roads. 

 I also met a similar fate when I lost my father in a road accident in the year 2008 and as expected, with the offender choosing to run away from the spot of the accident, instead of helping and with no assistance from passing by people, he could not be saved, which made me to think that what could be the possible solution to this problem.

I wonder what could be the reason for such behaviour of our so called civilized society. Have we become so insensitive? Or is it something else?

The answer to this intriguing question is quite simple, it is not anything else, but the fear of our very own legal system, which is in fact, meant to protect us and the perceived hassles, that we think would be involved (police, courts and all) which we will have to endure, in case we choose to act and help that injured person, lying on the road.

So, with passerby’s refusing to hear the calls of help from the helpless accident victims and the offender often choosing to run away from the spot at the earliest possible opportunity, the situation again leaves us with the dilemma, that is there any way by which a change can be brought to this grim situation? I think the answer to this question is a definitive, yes, and in this regard I have listed below a few changes to our existing law on the subject, which I think would definitely help us to overcome this situation:-

  • The first and foremost thing that can save a human life in a road accident is the timely help and medical aid provided to the victim. Now, in this scenario, let us consider that who would be the most appropriate person that would be able to provide help to the victim immediately, whether it would be the people passing by, the police or the local administration. Actually, the answer to this very pertinent question is none of these, as the person who is in the best position to help the victim in such a scenario is none other than the driver or the occupants of the offending vehicle. I am sure some people would find this answer a little absurd, but let me explain this a little further…
  •   In our present legal system, if a person dies in a road accident than the driver of the offending vehicle is generally charged under Section 279 and Section 304-A of the Indian Penal Code and if everything goes right than he may be convicted under these sections after a long and protracted legal battle which may last from a few months to a few long years in the Indian Courts. 
  •  It is worthwhile to mention here that the maximum punishment under Section 304-A of the Indian Penal Code is either punishment for a term which may extend to 2 years OR with fine OR with both which means that it is very much possible that an offender may escape only by paying fine for the offence and undergoing no imprisonment at all or he may undergo an imprisonment for a small period say 2-6 months or so on…

However, in my view, it is the fear of this conviction, which makes an offender choose to run away from the spot in most of the cases rather than saving the victim, as the consequences of a conviction, howsoever small, have far reaching consequences in the life of an individual, be it social or financial, like being barred from joining any govt. service etc. but the pertinent question here is does it do any good to the family of the victim. I guess no. They have already lost a loving member of their family and no matter what, that person is not going to come back in their lives.

        In contrast to this, comprehend this, if the driver of the offending vehicle rather than choosing to run away from the spot, had in fact, taken the victim to the hospital, which could have in most probability saved the life of the person, than I am sure the family of the injured would be much more thankful to that person.

Therefore, in light of the above discussion, it is suggested that accident cases should be dealt as under and following changes be incorporated in the present law to make it better and in sync with the present times:

1. First and foremost, the offence of death in road accidents should be decriminalised, yes you read it right decriminalised i.e. if the driver of the offending vehicle chooses to himself, take the victims to the hospital for treatment immediately, which results in saving the lives of the injured. In such a scenario, all expenses for the treatment and adequate compensation to the injured shall be paid by the insurance of the offending vehicle as per the existing provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act. However, in this case the driver of the offending vehicle shall not be liable to any criminal liability.

  2.   It is very much possible, that despite the driver of the offending vehicle, taking the victims to the hospital, it is not possible to save their lives. In such a scenario, though the driver would not be liable to any criminal liability but in this case as a punishment, the driving licence of the offender shall be revoked for at least a period of three years, meaning thereby, that he shall not be able to drive any two-wheeler or four-wheeler for a period of three years in our country. He may though be allowed to obtain a fresh Driving Licence after completion of the period of three years on completion of all the laid down formalities and during the period of these three years he would be free to use public transport, but he himself won’t be allowed to drive and adequate compensation to the family of the deceased shall be paid by the insurance of the offending vehicle as per the existing provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act.

  3.   However, if the driver of the offending vehicle chooses to run away from the spot of the accident, then in such a case (irrespective of the fact that whether the victim lives or dies), though the driver would not be liable to any criminal liability as mentioned above, but in this case as a punishment, the driving licence of the offender shall be revoked for life, meaning thereby, that he shall not be able to drive any two-wheeler or four-wheeler for the rest of his life in our country. He may though be free to use public transport, but he himself won’t be allowed to drive for the remainder of his life and adequate compensation to the family of the deceased shall be paid by the insurance of the offending vehicle as per the existing provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act.

  4.   If the accident causes the death of the victim on the spot and the offending driver does not run away from the spot of the accident, then in such a scenario, though the driver would not be liable to any criminal liability but in this case as a punishment, the driving licence of the offender shall be revoked for a period of not less than five years, meaning thereby, that he shall not be able to drive any two-wheeler or four-wheeler at least for a period of five years in our country. He may though be allowed to obtain a fresh Driving Licence after completion of the period of five years on completion of all the laid down formalities and adequate compensation to the family of the deceased shall be paid by the insurance of the offending vehicle as per the existing provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act.

  5.   If such a person, whose licence has been revoked as mentioned in point no.2,3&4 above, is found to be driving again during the period of revocation or attempts to or obtains another driving licence on forged or fabricated documents, then he shall be liable for punishment for a term which shall not be less than 7 years but which may extend to 10 years.

 6.   In the above mentioned provisions, if the vehicle is not insured than it shall be the liability of the owner and driver of the vehicle to compensate the victim or his family as per the existing provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act.

 7.   Further, if the driver of the offending vehicle was not holding a valid driving licence at the time of the accident or he is a second time offender whose licence was revoked earlier for a period of three years or five years as explained above than in such a scenario he shall be liable for punishment for a term which shall not be less than 7 years but which may extend to 10 years and he shall also not be granted a driving licence for the rest of his life.

 8.   If the driver of the offending vehicle is a juvenile, then he shall be dealt with as per the existing provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act.

  9.  Further, a central repository of all such offenders whose licences have been revoked shall be maintained, so that no new licence can be issued to them during the period of revocation of their licence or the remainder of their life, as the case may be and this would also help the authorities in keeping a tab on the repeat offenders.

These proposed provisions of law, if implemented, would transcend into multiple benefits for the society, which are listed as under:

  • First and foremost, we would be able to save the precious innocent lives of victims of road accidents, by taking out the fear of conviction from the minds of the offenders and as the offence would be decriminalised there would be no harassment of the good Samaritans also who choose to take the injured to the hospital, at the hands of the police or any other local authorities.
  •  Secondly, we would be able to take out the rash and negligent drivers from the Indian roads by revoking their licenses, so that they do not pose a threat to any other human life on the road. 
  • Thirdly, by adopting these provisions, we would also be able to teach compassion to the offenders by giving them time to introspect,  as each time he would not be able to drive, he would realise his mistake and in turn would surely guide others in this regard and am sure with time such persons would also definitely help in saving lives of other such road accident victims. 
  •  Fourthly, this policy shall further encourage all vehicle owners to always keep their vehicles adequately insured against any third party risks.  
  •  Fifthly, this policy is based on age old traditions of Indian system of reformation over retribution, as accidents often happen without any intention to cause them and by not convicting the offender, we are not making him a social out-caste, rather we are giving him an opportunity to save life and to make amends and start his life afresh.
  •  Sixthly, it will also help in reducing the pending no. of cases in our courts to some extent, by contributing to the cause in its own small way and
  • Lastly, by adopting this policy, we would not only help in saving the lives of the accident victims, but we would also be doing a favour to the family’s of the offenders, as often, the persons convicted in road accidents belong to the lower strata of the society and sometimes are also the lone bread winners of their families.

So, the benefits of adopting these provisions are multifarious as has been explained above. However, some of you might feel that this penalty is not commensurate to the loss suffered by the family of the deceased accident victim, in this regard I would say that you are not completely unjustified in thinking this way as these feelings are bound to cross one’s rational mind, but thinking of the bigger picture, let me assure you that the benefits of adopting this policy are indeed much more as compared to our present existing provisions of law on the subject.

I have drafted this petition thinking about all those times when I miss my father so much in my life and also all those times, which I have spent wondering over the years, that whether I would have been more happier if the offender would have taken him to hospital and helped save his life or I am happier now with having him being convicted for causing his death?

I am sure you will get your answer to this question, when you introspect…

These provisions in order to be adopted would require necessary amendments to be made to the Indian Penal Code as well as the Motor Vehicles Act.

However, if, by adopting these provisions we are able to save even at least one human life, I would feel we have achieved what we have set out for.

So I call upon all of you to…

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