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Woman biker who died on potholed road charged with negligence, debate rages

If a person is injured, they are booked. If a person dies, the person who caused the accident is booked, said Mumbai officials

mumbai Updated: Jul 24, 2017 23:27 IST
Farhan Shaikh
Farhan Shaikh
Hindustan Times
Mumbai biker,negligent driving,women-only biker club
Jagruti Viraj Hogal and two other women were heading from Bandra to Jawhar, a popular tourist spot know for its waterfalls, on a weekend getaway when the accident occurred. (HT)

What should the police do when a biker trying to avoid a pothole dies in the process?

Should they register a case against the biker for negligent driving or against the authority in charge of maintaining the roads? Road safety experts said it should be the latter.

On Sunday, Bandra resident Jagruti Viraj Hogal was on her way to Jawhar, popular for its waterfalls, for a weekend getaway, police said. She was part of a women-only biker club and had been on trips to Leh and Ladakh.

At 9am, she tried to overtake a truck near Vaiti village, 100km from Mumbai. It was raining heavily and she did not see a pothole until it was too late. She swerved abruptly to the left but was crushed by a truck, said Kasa assistant police inspector Jayprakash Gute.

By the time Hogale’s friends caught up to her, she was dead.

“We registered a case under section 304 (a) (negligent driving) against Hogale. She should have shown better judgement while riding her bike. Had she swerved to the right, she would have probably survived as she was wearing a helmet,” he said.

Such statements are common across police stations in Mumbai and its outskirts.

After a crash is reported, the police register a case under sections of the Indian Penal Code and Motor Vehicles Act. If a person is injured, they are still booked under the MVA’s provisions, said officials. If a person dies, the accused is booked. The accused is defined as the person who caused the crash.

This is where it gets tricky. “It is usually always the driver of the larger vehicle who is booked. The police must proceed logically,” said road safety expert AV Shenoy.

Depending on the case, an investigation is carried out and a charge sheet is filed. If the ‘accused’ is dead, as in the case of Hogale, an ‘abetted’ summary is filed, which states the facts to the court.

“In this case, Hogale was not to be blamed as she tried to avoid the pothole. Either the public works department (PWD) or the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) should be held responsible. The real culprits are those who have not maintained the road. If the cops want to register a case against someone, they should investigate and file the case against the actual culprit.”

Shenoy said the practice of filing a case against a victim is “illogical” and the police “must look at the root cause in every case.”

Retired Mumbai police inspector Raghunath Dalvi is one of the many policemen well aware of this situation. “In the end, we are human. We know the victim’s family will suffer, but are bound by law. We want to help but cannot. The procedure has to be followed,” said Dalvi.

First Published: Jul 24, 2017 15:17 IST