The Telegraph
Thursday , February 27 , 2014
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If it’s Don the dog, driver goes scot free

Don. File picture

Karimpur, Feb. 27: Indian Penal Code Section 304A: 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 realised 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 Animals 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.

Rebaul Mandal, a teacher in whose courtyard the dog used to sleep, said: “Don used to bark whenever he saw an unknown person in the market area at night. We felt safe because of him. We loved Don, but unfortunately, the police did not seem to understand that.”

He accused the officer in charge of Thanarpara police station of “ridiculing and rebuking” the villagers.

Officer in charge 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 them. 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,” he said.

“IPC Section 304A is not applicable to an 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,” the officer added.

A 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),” the lawyer said.

The maximum punishment under these sections is imprisonment up to five years.

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 of different provisions of the law, allow such drivers to go free, more accidents 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.”