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Friday, April 23, 2010


Rash and Negligent Driving ~ What ? What is the Penalty ??

You would recall my piece on ‘car flying off unfinished bridge’ - the driver was booked for rash and negligent driving. As we travel along in highways, we often see accidents and the common refrain is ‘rash and negligent driving’ causing the accident. In any petition before the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, you can see the victim pleading that the vehicle which caused the accident was driven in a rash and negligent manner, causing harm to public.

Legally, any driving or riding on a public way that endangers or hurts a person is considered rash driving. Bare negligence which endangers a person’s life without actually causing any injury is a criminal offence.

The Indian Penal Code has atleast two sections devoted to this.

Sec 279 Rash driving or riding on a public way. - Whoever drives any vehicle, or rides, on any public way in a manner so rash or negligent as to endanger human life, or to be likely to cause hurt or injury to any other person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.

More serious is Sec 304A - Causing death by negligence..--Whoever causes the death of any person by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both..

The offence is cognizable and bailable which means the police can arrest and release the accused immediately. There cannot be any damages claimed for negligent or rash driving if no one is hurt.    But negligence and driving at high speed which can risk injury to someone else is punishable criminally even if nobody is hurt.   Under the Motor Vehicles Act, the police can confiscate the driving licence of a person if he/she is caught speeding.

The Authorities are peeved stating that the fine amount is meagre and being bailable, even in a fatal accident, the accused can be released without production before a magistrate. There are cases where famous persons have caused grievous injuries due to their reckless driving but have escaped the arm of law. It is reported that Sec 304 of IPC was first introduced as an offence for causing due to negligence in 1870 when such offences were exceptional due to only few vehicles plying on road. You feel that it needs revision when you see spoilt brats drive at break neck speeds in sophisticated vehicles creating panic and fear in the minds of other road users. Criminal negligence is the gross neglect or failure to exercise precaution to guard against injury caused to others. The precaution should be seen as the failure of the control on the speed of the vehicle.

Vehicles driven at breakneck speeds are not likely stop immediately when breaks are applied. Law enforcement authorities may not be able to ascertain the speed of recklessness merely by observing the scene of the accident after it had taken place. Whilst the perpetrator might go scot free, the victim often are paralysed for the rest of their lives due to the grievous injuries caused by such recklessness.

A few years back, Delhi High Court passed instructions to Police personnel investigating road accident cases to ensure that the accused are properly brought to book. They even suggested recording photos of accident site, mechanical inspection reports of vehicles involved, medical report of the erring driver and prevailing weather conditions. In a case where the trial court had sentenced the driver to 15 months imprisonment for causing death of motorcyclist due to rash and negligent driving, the High Court acquitted holding the view that driving vehicle at a ‘high speed’ did not necessarily mean that the accused had driven the vehicle in a rash and negligent manner to invite sections 279 and 304A of the IPC.

Strange are the ways. After the eerie accident over the (unfinished bridge) here are a couple of photos most probably caused by negligence of the drive. 

accident near Dharmapuri (courtesy Indian Express)

near Thuraipakkam, Chennai (photo : Times of India)
With regards – S Sampathkumar.

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