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Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita for Hit-and-Run Cases |

Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita for Hit-and-Run Cases

Context

∙ Transporters and commercial drivers from States like Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, and Punjab have staged protests against the recent legislation concerning hit-and-run incidents.

About the law

∙ Section 106 (2) of the Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita, 2023 (BNS) stipulates a penalty of up to 10 years in jail and a fine 7 lakh for fleeing an accident spot and failing to report the incident to a police officer or a magistrate.

∙ This law is in addition to the colonial-era provision on causing death due to rash or negligent acts under Section 304A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Need for the law

∙ The new law comes in the backdrop of concerning figures related to road accidents in India.

∙ In 2022, India registered the highest count of road crash fatalities, exceeding 1.68 lakh deaths.

∙ It aims to deter drivers from engaging in rash and negligent driving that may lead to death.

∙ The intent is to punish an offender in the event that they attempt to escape the law after causing death due to rash and negligent driving.

∙ The law creates a positive obligation on part of the offender to report such an incident to the police or magistrate.

∙ They are also provisions to criminalise the omission in the performance of such a duty.

∙ The imposition of this legal duty clearly arises from a legislative intent to enforce moral responsibility on the part of the offender towards the victim of a road accident.

Reasons for Protest

∙ Transporters have raised concerns that the offence provides for stringent punishment even where the accidents are unintentional.

∙ They say that the penalty is excessive and that it fails to consider their challenging work conditions, including long driving hours and difficult roads.

∙ They argue that accidents may be caused by factors beyond the driver’s control, such as poor visibility due to fog.

∙ The punishment provided by the law is disproportionate and does not align with the realities of road transport and the nature of accidents.

∙ The drivers are also concerned that the law may be abused by law enforcement agencies to their detriment.

Suggestion and Conclusion

∙ The way forward is to revisit and reconcile clauses so that more than 35 lakh truck drivers in the country are not treated unfairly, apart from individual vehicle drivers.

∙ For instance, an exception has been made under 106 (1) of the BNS for doctors in the event of rash or negligent acts, where the punishment will be up to two years with a fine.

∙ This limited categorisation is problematic and is against the principles of equality, as the liability of a wide variety of people working in other sectors also needs to be moderated.

∙ In order to provide a graded liability and commensurate punishment, the acts of rash driving and negligent driving must be separated and placed under different degrees of liability so that all incidents of this nature are not bracketed into one, causing prejudice to the actors.

∙ The road accidents resulting in minor injuries ought not to be equated with criminal acts.

∙ Here measures like community service or revoking of driving licences or mandatory driving retests etc. could be the ways to criminalise.

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