Barely eight hours after he crushed to death a doctor and his minor daughter while they waited for her school bus on Monday in Gurgaon, the accused driver of Haryana Roadways bus Harish Singh was out on bail.
Dr Pankaj Gupta and his daughter Lineysha had not even been cremated yet.
Reason: Gurgaon Police booked Singh for “causing death by negligence” — a bailable offence under Section 304 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) attracting a maximum punishment of two years in jail and Section 279 of IPC for “rash driving or riding on a public way” punishable with six-month imprisonment.
This despite a Supreme Court ruling that a person responsible for such dangerous driving resulting in deaths of human beings must be booked for “culpable homicide not amounting to murder” — a non-bailable offence attracting a maximum punishment of 10 years in jail.
“Rash or negligent driving on a public road with the knowledge of the dangerous character and likely effect of the act and resulting in death may fall in the category of culpable homicide not amounting to murder,” a bench headed by Justice RM Lodha said in Alister Anthony Pareira’s case in 2012.
Under the influence of alcohol, Pareira had rammed his car into the pavement on Mumbai’s Carter Road killing seven people and injuring eight others in November 2006. The trial court sentenced him to six-month simple imprisonment under Section 304 A of IPC. He was also ordered to pay a fine of `5 lakh.
But the Mumbai High Court, which took suo motu cognisance of the trial court’s order, altered the verdict and sentenced Pareira to three-year-imprisonment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder with a fine of `5 lakh.
Upholding the HC verdict, the SC said: “A person responsible for a reckless or rash or negligent act that causes death which he had knowledge as a reasonable man that such act was dangerous enough to lead to some untoward thing and the death was likely to be caused, may be attributed with the knowledge of the consequence and may be fastened with culpability of homicide not amounting to murder and punishable under section 304 part-II.”
Even in the Delhi BMW case, the Supreme Court had reversed the Delhi HC’s verdict, sentencing accused Sanjeev Nanda under Section 304 A of IPC for “causing death by negligence” and restored the trial court order convicting him for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
The police invariably book accused in such accident cases under Section 304 A IPC.
Perhaps it was for this reason that the Law Commission in its 234th report, submitted to the government in August 2009, recommended that the maximum punishment under Section 304 A of IPC for “causing death by negligence” should be enhanced from two-year imprisonment to 10-years.
Save Life Foundation president Piyush Tewari said: “Gurgaon Police have clearly erred in choosing the section under which the driver responsible for this accident should have been booked.”
“A vehicle is like a weapon, which if not used with responsibility and proper training, even by licensed persons, can cause havoc on the streets. Would the police have charged the accused under the same section of IPC had he opened fire in public and killed a small child and her father? This case deserves to be treated with much more seriousness than what the Gurgaon Police have dealt with it so far,” Tewari added.