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Driving drunk can make you a ‘criminal’

Here’s a pretty good reason why you should mind your road manners and avoid driving when drunk. Read a report by Ravi Bajpai and Nivedita Khandekar...

india Updated: Jan 09, 2008 20:56 IST
Ravi Bajpai and Ravi Bajpai and Nivedita Khandekar
Ravi Bajpai and Ravi Bajpai and Nivedita Khandekar
Hindustan Times

Here’s a pretty good reason why you should mind your road manners and avoid driving when drunk.

If you are found guilty of these offences, a criminal case may be slapped on you — Delhi Police’s latest and potent weapon to clean up the roads. A criminal case is no joke, it will continue to rankle you long after that minor incident of driving after couple of pegs had taken place. You may spoil your chances of getting a government job, of procuring an arms licence and even of getting a passport and visa. There are other things also — like having to tick a humiliating box on your US university application form, continuing to explain again and again for a long, long time why you were criminally charged.

“Since January 1, 113 people have already been arrested under IPC 279. This includes a few private vehicles also, although the focus is on commercial and heavy vehicles,” said DCP Traffic (headquarters) Rupinder Kumar.

This is not a blanket norm and only serious offenders would be held criminally liable, police said. Earlier, offenders were prosecuted only under the Central Motor Vehicles Act. They had to pay a fine, imprisonment being a provision and provision only.

The difference between prosecution under the Motor Vehicle’s Act and the Indian Penal Code is that in the latter a proper criminal record of the accused is maintained.

“We are focussing on commercial vehicles but private vehicle owners would also not be spared if they are found putting lives at risk by driving dangerously,” said Qamar Ahmed, Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic).

He said officers on the spot would take a call on whether a particular act is rash enough for initiating a criminal case. Legal experts have a point. Advocate Ajay Digpaul says, “It’s subjective. How can we be sure that the policeman on the spot is rightly booking an offender under IPC? He may just deserve a challan under the Motor Vehicle Act.” While a crackdown on irresponsible driving is hugely
welcome, the slapping of criminal cases should not turn into a casual affair, they say.