TT Epaper
The Telegraph
 
CIMA Gallary

Driver goes scot free as Don’s a dog
- Police refuse to book driver for running over animal as relevant law applies to humans

Karimpur (Nadia), Feb. 26: Indian Penal Code Section 304A: Causing death by negligence. Whoever causes the death of any PERSON by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to two years, or with fine, or both.

But Don was not a PERSON. The unsuspecting dog was sitting in front of a shop near a market in Nadia when a truck driving “recklessly” through the busy area, ran him over yesterday afternoon.

When around 100 traders and residents of Natidanga-Gamakhali village in Karimpur’s Thanarpara, who used to feed and look after the one-year-old Don, went to the local police station, the personnel initially accepted their complaint but soon realisation dawned on them that the relevant IPC section applied to human beings, not animals.

The villagers, however, waited at the police station till late in the evening demanding action against the driver, who is yet to be identified, under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act.

The officer in charge of Thanarpara police station told the villagers that a case could not be registered under the act as Don was killed in an accident.

The villagers left their complaint at the police station, threatening to put up roadblocks if the police did not take any action.

Rebaul Mandal, a teacher in whose courtyard Don used to sleep at night, said: “The truck driver was driving recklessly through the crowded market area. He ran over Don, who was sitting in front of a shop. The villagers and the local shop owners loved the dog and used to feed it.”

Mandal said Don used to bark whenever he saw an unknown person in the market area at night. “We used to feel safe because of him. We used to love Don, but unfortunately, the police did not seem to realise this,” the teacher said, adding that the officer in charge had “ridiculed and rebuked” the villagers for demanding that a complaint be registered for the death of a dog. “They did not take action even though we gave them the number of the truck,” he said.

The officer in charge of Thanarpara police station, Anindya Bose, contested the allegation and pleaded helplessness for not being able to take the action demanded by the villagers.

“I never ridiculed or rebuked the villagers. I respect their affection for the dog. But my hands are tied. I did not find any IPC section under which the driver could be charged for accidentally running over a street dog,” Bose said.

“IPC Section 304A is not applicable to any animal. The villagers’ demand that the truck driver be booked under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act could not be accepted as this was not a case of cruelty. Rather, it is a clear case of accident. We are confused. But I have assured the villagers of strong action against reckless driving in the area,” the officer added.

Mokhtar Mandal, a BEd student who lives in Natidanga-Gamakhali village, accused Bose of “deliberately shirking” his responsibility. “He has no love for animals. He did not even bother to respect our sentiments. We felt hurt. There are many other legal provisions under which the officer could easily have booked the driver,” he said.

A senior Calcutta High Court lawyer mentioned some IPC sections under which the truck driver could have been booked.

“The police could have charged the driver under Section 279 of the IPC (rash driving or riding on a public way) or under Section 184 of the Motor Vehicles Act (rash driving endangering general public safety). Moreover, if the police had reason to believe that the dog’s death was intentional, it could have charged the driver under Section 429 of the IPC for mischief by killing or maiming cattle of any value or any animal of the value of Rs 50 or upwards,” the lawyer said.

The maximum punishment under these sections is imprisonment ranging between five years and six months.

Trinamul Congress MLA Debashree Roy, a dog lover, said the police should have “taken a sympathetic approach” and booked the driver “respecting the demand” of the villagers. “I will talk to the OC and request him to take the complaint,” she said.

Animal care activists Rana Ganguly, who runs a veterinary clinic for pets in Calcutta, said: “If the police, because of their ignorance about different provisions of the law allow such drivers to go free, more such incidents will happen.”

Reacting to the death of the dog and the police’s alleged apathy to book the driver, a functionary of the People for Ethical Treatment on Animals (PETA), Bhuvaneshwari Gupta, told The Telegraph from Mumbai: “It is common knowledge that dangerous or reckless driving is a punishable offence, and so any injury or death caused from it cannot be considered accidental.

“While reckless driving is illegal, cruelty to animals is also illegal under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Anyone who hurts a dog by reckless driving should be held accountable under both laws. Anyone can be a victim of rash driving — a child, animals or even the driver himself. Those who drive recklessly must be held accountable for the injury or death they cause.”