Law · Society

Road Accidents – First Response, Duty and Law

It very often happens that the common man is not aware of the law and he often puts himself into great difficulties because of his ignorance of law.  While driving through the congested streets we may sometimes be asked by police constable or sub-inspector to stop our vehicle at the corner of the road. He will than demand our driving license (which is mandatory for every motorist to carry). If we have defaulted, we are liable to be fined according to the Motor Vehicle Act, 1939 (Section6,    Restrictions on the holding of driving licences). Also person may be fined by Traffic police officer if a person is using vehicle in unsafe condition. (Section 121, Motor Vehicle Act, 1939).  The term ‘rash and dangerous driving’, has not been defined clearly anywhere, either in the central Motor Vehicles Act (MVA) or in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) although section 184 of MVA describes the punishment for a rash driver. In common sense, it means an event, which takes place without any foresight or expectation and results in some negative consequence like damage to property and human life etc. The term ‘Rash’ or ‘Dangerous’ must be construed with regard to all the circumstances of the case including the nature, condition and use of the place where the vehicle is driven and the amount of traffic which is actually these at the time of the accident or which might reasonably be expected to be at that time. An appropriate psychologist’s definition of rash driving will be “ Driving under the influence of impaired emotions resulting in behaviour that imposes one’s preferred level of risk-taking on others.”

Road accident, at 1.27 million deaths per year on the average, is the fourth most important contributor to annual fatalities in the world, today. Its mostly seen that during road accidents the accused person always tries to run from the place. Sometimes the person is successful, but it has to be kept in mind that after running from the place of accident the other offences can be put on him, that will make his case weak. In Road accident cases police can register case against the accused under Indian Penal Code sections 279 ( Rash driving or riding on a public way), 337 ( Causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others.), 338 (Causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others.) or 304 A (causing death by Negligence) . The offences are Bailable and accused will get bail for these offences. As it has been explained above, for a Bailable offence the accused has a right to get Bail. Police in such types of offences has to register a case and do investigation without keeping the accused in custody or jail and should release the accused on Bail. For the offences mentioned above the accused have to produce a Surety who can assure that whenever police or  Court issues summon or notice to person and call him, the surety must produce the accused to the court in all circumstances.

If for any reason on the place of accident you are beaten up by public or any such other incident happened with you or you have some clue that such type of incident can happen with you, than you can without any delay approach the police station and surrender. After reaching police station you must inform the whole incident to the police officers. If for any reason police did not accept you surrender, than you can approach a senior police officer or police officer of high rank and report the incident happened. Some people have a general tendency that if car/bus driver will wait at the place of accident, than the person gathered there or relatives and friends of victim will beat them. There is always a possibility of persons hitting at the accused after the accident happened, but if we see it from a legal angle than the driver should never leave the place of accident.  It’s the responsibility of the person instead of running from the place that he should help the victim by taking him to the hospital and inform his relatives and friends. By doing this the accused person will prove to be a gentleman in the eyes of victim’s relatives and also while hearing the case of accused in court even judge will praise accused  for his act and will provide him benefit for his act  . If you are not at fault at the time of accident and you are driving after taking full precautions and it is all victim mistake because of which accident happened,  and in that situation person try to run from the place  than definitely the case will go against the person even if he was not at fault.  In case if a person run from the place of accident than you will not be able to recognize the witnesses, who will give evidence in your support. If in cases of accident on roads bail is granted and you can come from police custody without a problem, than there is no issue of worry in case accident happens.

Duty of every citizen to help motor Accident Victim

In Pt. Parmanand Katara v. Union of India (UOI) and Ors1 it was pointed out that it is the duty of every citizen to help a motor accident victim, more so when one is the cause of the accident, or is involved in that particular accident. Situations may be there, in a highly charged atmosphere or due to mob fury, the driver may flee from the place, if there is a real danger to his life, but he cannot shirk his responsibility of informing the police or other authorized persons or good samaritans forthwith, so that human lives could be saved.

Passengers who are in the vehicle which met with an accident, have also a duty to arrange proper medical attention for the victims. Further they have equal responsibility to inform the police about the factum of the accident, in case of failure to do so they are aiding the crime and screening the offender from legal punishment. No legal obligation as such is cast on a bystander either under the Motor Vehicle Act or any other legislation in India. But greater responsibility is cast on them, because they are people at the scene of the occurrence, and immediate and prompt medical attention and care may help the victims and their dear ones from unexpected catastrophe. Private hospitals and government hospitals, especially situated near the Highway, where traffic is high, should be equipped with all facilities to meet with such emergency situations. Ambulance with all medical facilities including doctors and supporting staff should be ready, so that, in case of emergency, prompt and immediate medical attention could be given.

1 (1989) 4 SCC 286)

About the Author

kushKush Kalra

Kush is a practicing lawyer at Delhi High Court. He graduated from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab, India in 2012 and has authored a book titled – Be Your Own Lawyer.

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