Fatal road accidents: Alarmed SC wants change in laws

There is a nonchalant attitude among the drivers, says court on rash and negligent driving

GN Bureau | March 31, 2015


#Supreme Court   #road accidents   #deaths   #punishment   #motor vehicles  

One person dies every 4 minutes due to road accident in India and this is a good enough reason to change laws. And the Supreme Court has urged lawmakers to have a more stringent punishment in terms of rash and negligent driving causing death.

Terming light sentences being awarded in road accident cases as "mockery of justice", Supreme Court has asked lawmakers to "scrutinise, re-look and re-visit" the penal laws saying the poor's life was as worth living as that of the rich.

The SC was anguished over the growing cases of reckless and drunken driving.

"We are compelled to observe that India has a disreputable record of road accidents. There is a nonchalant attitude among the drivers. They feel that they are the 'Emperors' of all they survey. Drunkenness contributes to careless driving where other people become their prey.

Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla Pant, in a judgment delivered on Monday, said that a maximum punishment of two years in jail with fine under Section 304 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) may not serve the purpose of a law being deterrent. Section 304A of the IPC deals with the offence of causing death by rash and negligent act and provides for imprisonment for maximum of two years or fine or both.

The observations came in a verdict on an appeal filed by the state government against the order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in a road accident case in which two persons were killed on June 14, 2007.

The High Court had partly allowed the plea of convict Saurabh Bakshi and reduced his jail term from one year to 24 days, already undergone during the trial. "In our opinion, it is a fit case where we are constrained to say that the High Court has been swayed away by the passion of mercy in applying the principle that payment of compensation is a factor for reduction of sentence to 24 days.

"It is absolutely in the realm of misplaced sympathy," it said. The apex court awarded six months jail term to the convict and asked him to surrender "forthwith".

The court said such a sentencing pattern is "mockery of justice" and observed "such a crime blights not only the lives of the victims but of many others around them. It ultimately shatters the faith of the public in judicial system."

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