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SC favours amending IPC on rash driving

The amendment is to enhance the punishment of two-year imprisonment for rash or negligent driving that claims about 60,000 innocent lives across India every year, reports Satya Prakash.

india Updated: Jun 23, 2007 02:06 IST
Satya Prakash
Satya Prakash
Hindustan Times

The Supreme Court has favoured amending the Indian Penal Code to enhance the punishment of two-year imprisonment for rash or negligent driving that claims about 60,000 innocent lives across the country every year.

Citing Section 304A of IPC that prescribes only two-year imprisonment for killing a person by negligent driving, a bench headed by Justice Arijit Pasayat reduced from five years to two- year imprisonment the punishment given by the trial court to Prabhakaran, a driver, for killing a 10-year-old schoolboy in Kozhikode in Kerala by rash driving. The high court upheld the verdict.

However, the Supreme Court agreed with the state that considering the increasing number of vehicular accidents resulting in death of large number of innocent people two-year imprisonment was grossly inadequate. “It is for the legislature to provide for an appropriate sentence,” the bench added. The court said since Section 304A of the IPC provids two years as the maximum sentence, the convict could not be given a higher punishment. The Supreme Court’s observation is likely to fuel the debate over the need for harsher punishment to those guilty of rash, negligent or drunken driving leading to death of innocent people.

The trial court convicted Prabhakaran under part-II of Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder wherein the accused does not have intention to kill but has the knowledge that the act is likely to cause death) that attracts imprisonment for 10 years or fine or both. The high court agreed.

The prosecution had charged Prabhakaran with driving the bus in a rash and negligent manner despite being cautioned by passengers to reduce the speed. One of the school children crossing the road was run over by the bus.

The police booked him under Section 302 IPC (murder) but the trial court and the high court held him guilty under Section 304 part-II of IPC and sentenced him to five- year imprisonment on the ground that he knew that his action could result into death of a person.

However, the Supreme Court agreed with Prabhakaran’s contention that the case was covered under Section 304A for which the maximum punishment is two-year imprisonment.

“In addition to the devastating human toll, the economic impact of road crashes is also enormous, Many of those injured or killed are wage earners, leaving their families destitute and without means of support,” it said.

“Human toll in such accidents is tragic. Survivors and family members are affected not only by an immediate death or disability, but also lifetime psychological and physical suffering. Crashes often result in orphans, and some victims, as young as infants, spend the rest of their lives with medical facilities,” the bench noted. The court said traffic safety could be successfully addressed.

First Published: Jun 23, 2007 02:01 IST