Enhancement of punishment in respect of rash and negligent driving

Apropos your article on the above subject appeared in your esteemed newspaper on June 12, 2008.  I, having worked as Officer in State Lower and Higher Judiciary for over 32 years I want to project some practical aspects in this regard.

 

Our National Highways and State Highways are our countries nervous system.  Transport of Essential Commodities goods etc., take place quite regularly through out length and breadth of one country carried through Lorries and other goods carriers.  Lorry drivers from our nook and corner of the country drive vehicles to other corners, and keep the nervous system active without disruption.  May be due to misfortune or otherwise, they involve in accidents, and cause death of men, cattle and damage to property.  They also cause death of persons by driving vehicles in rash and negligent manner not amounting to culpable homicide, made punishable under Section 304-A I.P.C.  They require to be bailed out expeditiously in a period of not more than two or three days not only to reach their place of residence or reach the goods without disruption to distribution of essential commodities, perishable or other goods.

 

In the event 304-A is made punishable irrespective of influencing factors like, driving in drunken or intoxicated mood, or driving for hours and days together without rest, thereby develop fatigue and lose balance and power of judgment and committing errors, it will have devastating effect on the entire transport system.  If the offence is made punishable 10 years it naturally becomes non-bailable.  Getting bail in non-bailable offences will have impact of delay in Courts and sometimes the driver may even not get bail for a considerable length of time.  Now, as the punishment is fine or sentence of two years or both, having regard to many circumstances the driver admit the offence pay even heavy fine and go away.

 

Even now securing witnesses and evidence by police in the kind of cases, has become difficult.  There are very frequent instances where, even now a person who gives report of incident has become scarce.  There is very negligible percentage of conviction after full fledged trial of such cases.  If the punishment is increased as proposed it will be hay day for corrupt officials and they result in unnecessary harassment of drivers and finally in turn out to be an empty or futile exercise at the end.

 

In fact even now, it is not as if the law is not stringent.

 

Under Section 3 of the Motor Vehicles Act, no person shall drive Motor Vehicle in any public place unless he held an effective driving licence issued to him authorizing him drive the vehicle.  In respect of vehicles other than Motor Cab or Motor Cycle, the driving licence shall specifically stipulate authorization to drive such vehicle.

 

            Under Section 20 of Motor Vehicles Act where the driver is convicted for an offence under this Act or an offence in the commission of which a Motor Vehicle is used, the Court by which such person is convicted, may in addition to imposing any other punishment, declare the person so convicted to be disqualified, for such period as the Court may satisfy from holding any driving licence to drive all Classes or description of the vehicles.

 

            Under Section 24 of Motor Vehicles Act the Court or Authority making an order of disqualification shall endorse or cause to be endorsed upon the driving licence if any, held by the person disqualified, particulars of the order of disqualification and of any conviction of an offence in respect of which an order disqualification is made.  Subsequent cancellation or variation shall also similarly endorse.

 

            Therefore, there can be stringent enforcement of punishment imposed on a driver who drove the vehicle rash and negligently and caused the death of person/s and the driver can be permanently disqualified from driving the vehicles.  Quite astonishingly, more particularly in the last two decades police are not adding these provisions to attract the attention of the Judicial Magistrates of First Class to order disqualification of suspension or cancellation of driving licence of those drivers who have driven the vehicles rash and negligent manner.

 

            Section 184 of the Motor Vehicles Act makes the driver contravening the speed limit punishable with fine which may extend to Rs.400/- and for second offence up to Rs.500/-.  Under Section 184 driving dangerously in the public place shall be punishable for the first offence up to six months or fine which may extent to Rs.1,000/-, and for any or subsequent offence that the imprisonment extending up to two years or fine extending to Rs.2,000/-, or both.

 

            Under Section 185 a person driving the vehicle in drunken condition i.e. having alcohol in the blood exceeding 300 mg per 100 ml or under the influence of the drug shall be punishable for a term extending up to six months or with fine of Rs.2,000/- or both and for second offence up to two years imprisonment or fine up to Rs.3,000/- or both.

 

            The above provisions can be utilized for causing deterrence to the indifferent drivers.  Steps should be taken to mention in the charge sheets, these stringent measures be imposed on the drivers in the event cases under Sections 337 (causing simple injury), 338 (causing grievous injury) and 304-A (causing death of a person) of the Indian Penal Code having been influenced in the above three circumstances also.  Therefore, there is no necessity for increasing the punishment for rash and negligent driving constituting an offence under Section 304-A IPC.

 

            If the Government intends to make punishment deterrent and increase the period of imprisonment, separate Clause can be added showing what I have mentioned above in relation to driving at excessive speed, driving dangerously, and driving in drunken condition or under the influence of drugs, made punishable with increased periods of incarceration.  Straightaway enhancing period of imprisonment i.e. 304-A will have negative effects in the society and it is not in larger interest of the Country.

 

Published in Civil Law
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