Law · Research · Society · Youth

The Good Samaritan Law: How It Came to Being

Life itself is a composition of various derivatives. It takes intense courage, awareness and knowledge for an individual to harness the problems that others happen to face. A law, indirectly related to this module is the “Samaritan Law”.

Here are the requisite facts and individualistic viewpoints put forward, exclusively for our readers by Anyatama Nayak.

According to a report by the World Health Organization[1] “skilled and empowered bystanders play a crucial role in saving lives”. This shows that in case of emergency situations bystanders can save lives when they are in a position that enables them to help others and not be worried of the consequences of this act to negatively affect them. Here it is important that the bystanders are not deterred from providing help. Thus the report goes on to state that or enabling bystanders to help injured people it is necessary “to provide a supportive legal and ethical environment”. However in India there have been various instances of people being hesitant to help in the fear of either being trapped in the legal system and to be held in detention unnecessarily.

One of the earliest instances of a provision to legal immunity for caring for the injured was in the case of Parmanand Katara v. Union of India[2]. The Supreme Court as early as in the year of 1989 had ruled that the State has an obligation to preserve life. The court had noted that the need to preserve life is of utmost importance. This includes the medical staff, police or any other bystander that may be present at the scene. This ruling was the earliest example showing the necessity to allow the citizens to help people in danger and in need of care without the fear of being unnecessarily harassed by the system.

The Supreme Court has finally approved the guidelines that were issued by the Centre for the protection of Good Samaritans at the hands of the police and other authorities. The Court’s decision is a crucial step in changing the mindset of people to help road accident victims and to be satisfied that they will not be harassed at hospitals or the police or in case of court trials. This has been noted by the SaveLife Foundation.

The SaveLife Foundation has been the organization which has been the driving force in this case. They had filed the original Public Interest Litigation in the court in the year of 2012 which has now led to these developments[3]. They had then obtained an interim order on the necessity to frame specific guidelines to protect those who help in such emergency situations. The SaveLife Foundation, on the basis of their study, submitted that three out of four people hesitate to help in case of road accidents worrying about the hassles they might face during the investigatory proceedings. Needless to say that such obstacle makes people hesitant to help others in case of emergency. This can make a huge difference, especially when the matter deals with extreme cases of life and death!

After the filing of PIL, the Supreme Court then directed the Centre to issue guidelines in the year 2014. They were directed to formulate certain guidelines. In the year 2015, “The Ministry Of Road Transport and Highways” released those guidelines in the form of a gazette notification[4].

These guidelines were based on the recommendations of a three bench committee that was headed by former Judge K S Radhakrishnan. They had listed 12 major recommendations with regard to setting up of State Road Safety Councils and monitoring the actions taken. Other recommendations included strict enforcement of penalties in case of drunken driving, over speeding and the breaking of traffic rules in general. The committee had however also stated that the lack of statutory backing in this regard makes it difficult to enforce the guidelines that are issued. This highlights the importance of a statutory law that the Union Government should enact laws. It was the recommendation of this committee to make these guidelines binding until the statute is made.

This recommendation has been followed by the Supreme Court, who in 2016 made and approved the guidelines pertaining to the issue. It is now compulsory for all the states and Union territories to follow these guidelines. The SaveLife Foundation has also drafted a bill for the Protection of Good Samaritans and this bill was introduced in the Parliament as a Private Members bill on December 12, 2014[5]. The need for statutory backing to these guidelines will help promote the act of helping in cases of Road accident victims.

The guidelines are just a starting step and it is essential now to have a legislature in this regard. It is highly necessary to keep in mind the number of deaths that occur in the nation due to lack of help and assistance provided on-the-spot. The constitutional rights that have been given to every citizen include the Right to Life. And it thus also becomes the duty of the State to facilitate the amount of help and care an individual needs at that very instant of time.

[1] Prehospital trauma care systems, World Health Organization, Geneva , 2005, At Page 52 http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/43167/1/924159294X.pdf

[2] Parmanand Katara v. Union of India, 1989 AIR 2039

[3] SC gives “force of law” to guidelines protecting good samaritans who help accident victims, DnA India, http://www.dnaindia.com/locality/west-delhi/sc-gives-%E2%80%9Cforce-law%E2%80%9D-guidelines-protecting-good-samaritans-who-help-accident-victims-89309

 

[4]The Gazette Of India, https://savelifefoundation.org/wp-content/themes/savelife/Documents/GazetteNotification_SOPforGS.pdf

[5] Guidelines to protect Good Samaritans soon, The Hindu, http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/guidelines-to-protect-good-samaritans-soon/article7094395.ece

Leave a Reply