Relook at rash-driving law

The Supreme Court today asked the Centre to revisit the law and increase the punishment for dangerous driving, including speaking on mobile phones or through Bluetooth devices while at the wheel.

By Our Legal Correspondent
  • Published 22.09.16
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New Delhi, Sept. 21: The Supreme Court today asked the Centre to revisit the law and increase the punishment for dangerous driving, including speaking on mobile phones or through Bluetooth devices while at the wheel.

It asked the government to take a fresh look at Section 304A of the Indian Penal Code (causing death due to rash and negligent act) and Section 184 of the Central Motor Vehicle Act on dangerous driving. While the first prescribes a maximum punishment of two years in jail, the second carries a punishment of six months in jail or a Rs 1,000 fine.

Attorney-general Mukul Rohatgi, who at the last hearing was asked to assist the court, agreed with the bench of Justices Dipak Misra and C. Nagappan that the punishment should be enhanced to prevent deaths and injuries.

According to the NGO Save Life Foundation, in 2011 alone as many as 1,36,834 people were killed and 4,68,800 were injured in road accidents across India.

The World Health Organisation, in its World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention, 2004, had projected that by 2020 road accidents would be one of the biggest killers in India, accounting for 5,46,000 annual deaths.

"Apart from talking on mobile phones, many people use Bluetooth connected to the stereos. They don't use their hands for speaking but the moment you are connected with Bluetooth and speak, you are completely insensitive to others' warning, screeching or horns, resulting in accidents. The law needs some tweaking," the attorney general said.

The apex court, after hearing Rohatgi, said in a written order while dealing with an accident insurance case: "This court is really concerned with the vehicular accidents that extinguish the life-spark of many because of the whim and fancy, adventurism and harbouring of the notion that they are 'larger than life' of the men at the wheel.

"It is a matter of common knowledge that the drivers drive because of their profession but there are individuals who drive the vehicle because of their uncontrolled propensity for adventure. They really do not care for the lives of others....

"Mr Rohtagi, learned Attorney General for India, would submit that occurring of accidents is a dangerous and tragic phenomenon and it is required to be curbed with iron hands. Additionally, it is submitted by Mr Rohtagi that some people drive while putting their mobile phones in the ears as a consequence of which disastrous consequences take place... sometimes, people who drive while using mobile phone are booked under Section 184 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988."

The next hearing is on December 6, 2016.