28 Aug 2016

Harsher Punishment for Road Accidents: Supreme Court ponders

Taking note of its earlier observation that in India the drivers on the road feel as of they are “Emperors of all they survey”, the Supreme Court in its recent order has asked the Attorney General of India to explain the stand of the Government on harsher punishments for road accidents.

Currently Section 304A of the Indian Penal Code punishes an act of Causing death by negligence by an imprisonment of two years and a fine or both. In view of the Supreme Court, this punishment is "absolutely inadequate". While noting that it is the will of the Parliament to prescribe a punishment for an offence, in view of the Supreme Court it is important to understand the view of the Government of India on the subject. 

Though we do not find any merit in this special leave petition and it should have seen the end today, yet we have kept it alive as we have something to say.

In State of Punjab vs. Saurabh Bakshi (2015) 5 SCC 182, this Court has observed thus:
“Before parting with the case 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 the other people become their prey. The poor feel that their lives are not safe, the pedestrians think of uncertainty and the civilized persons drive in constant fear but still apprehensive about the obnoxious attitude of the people who project themselves as “larger than life”. In such obtaining circumstances, we are bound to observe that the lawmakers should scrutinise, relook and revisit the sentencing policy in Section 304-A IPC. We say so with immense anguish.”
We have said that Section 304-A IPC should be revisited so that higher punishment can be provided. The aforesaid passage clearly indicates that punishment provided under Section 304-A is absolutely inadequate. We are absolutely conscious, as the aforesaid would convey, it is up to the Parliament. However, we would like to hear the learned Attorney General for India on this score. Mr. Maninder Singh, learned Additional Solicitor General, who is present in the Court, submits the he will apprise the learned Attorney General to assist the Court. 

Let the matter be listed on 30th August, 2016.
One hopes that the Government shares the concern and will initiate the necessary action to change the mindset as the Supreme Court has noted.

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