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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Proposed Changes in MV Act: tougher punishment for drunken driving and talking on mobile while driving

One of the primary requirement for enforcing discipline is tough laws and stringent implementation. The news below is somewhat heartening as this could go a long way in reducing accidents, especially those arising out of human negligence.

Indian Penal Code Sec 302 is the section for ‘punishment for murder’ and Sec 304A is causing death by negligence – by any rash or negligent act which provides punishment with imprisonment extendable to a term beyond 2 years  - automobile accidents are generally treated under this Section.

Driver on wheel being intoxicated is a great menace and many accidents are caused by inebriated drivers under the influence of alcohol not able to control the vehicle in the desired manner.  Drunken driving is a menace as also the driver talking on mobile phone.  These are not be seen as simply acts of rashness but more of negligence causing grievous injury to death to the other road users by callous acts. 

Recently, Justice M.M. Sundresh of the Madras High Court set the tone by asking the trial court Judges to look into the facts and circumstances of each cases for deciding appropriate punishment especially in respect of deaths caused due to drunken driving.  The Judge was also quoted as directing Investigating agencies to register a case under Section 304(ii) of IPC if a person, driving under the influence of alcohol, causes death in a road accident. The section deals with punishment for culpable homicide and provides for a maximum sentence of 10 years.

These remarks were made while passing orders  on a bail plea filed by a person who had on Jan 2012, rammed his car into two bikes and an auto coming from the opposite after crossing the yellow line. He then crashed into a pavement, leading to the death of one person.   He was initially booked under section 304(A) of IPC, which deals with causing death by negligence. After tests revealed that Ramesh was drunk at the time of theaccident, the charges were altered to those under Section 304(ii). He was arrested on January 30 and remanded in judicial custody the same day.

The Judge while noting that cases of drunken driving had been dealt leniently by Magistrate Courts imposing fines, felt that such an approach is contrary to law and public interest.  Citing a recent Supreme Court order, which called for stringent punishment under Section 304(ii) for drunk driving, the judge rejected the argument of the petitioner’s counsel that this provision would not be attracted in the case. The judge said the reasoning adopted by the SC “clinches the entire issue”.

Now more appears to be happening.  Times of India reports that Union Cabinet today (1st Mar 2012) approved the proposed changes in the Motor Vehicle Act,  paving way for passing the legislation in Parliament to increase penalty on traffic rule violators across the country.  The new bill which will be introduced in the Rajya Sabha duing the Budget session has provision to slap Rs 500 fine for not wearing seat belt and helmet or for jumping a red light for the first time. The bill introduces fines for using mobile phone while driving.

The fines will multiply in case the same offender violates the traffic rules subsequently.  As per the new provision drink driving would be dealt with high penality and even jail term. Drink driving will be graded according to alcohol levels in the blood with a punishment that can go up to a two-year jail term and Rs 5,000 fine or both.

Repeat traffic offences will fetch stiff fines with jumping red lights or not using seat belts and helmets attracting fine between Rs 500 to Rs 1,500. The first offence of using cellphone will mean Rs 500 fine and subsequent infringements can set the offender back by Rs 5,000 in penalties. To discourage the use of cellphones, which have emerged as a key reason for road accidents all over the world, the new bill has proposed stiff fines.

Working on the proposition that higher fines work as a deterrent and can induce greater respect for the law, the Cabinet is expected to clear a slew of amendments in the Motor Vehicle Bill on Thursday. The increase in some categories are up to eight-10 folds over existing fines. The changes intend to make the vehicle owner responsible in case a minor is caught at the wheel.  The proposals to hike fines aim to target the major causes of accidents and fatalities on India's roads - drink driving, speeding, non-wearing of seatbelts and helmet and use of cellphone. To penalize habitual offenders, the bill incorporates higher fines and longer jail terms for repeat offences.

The disrespect for speed limits could attract Rs 1,000 fine for the first offence. Subsequently, the penalty could be as high as Rs 5,000.

Such changes in the Rules augur for a Country where drivers callously keep talking on mobile and drive in inebriated condition

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.


  1. Both tipes of drivers are very dangerous but we can't compare a drunk driver with the one that's texting or talking at the phone....
    It's true that bad things can happen in both cases but at least a driver that is just talking at his phone can react if the situation requires while a drunk driver won't be able to avoid a crash because his ability to take fast actions is reduced.
    What surprised me is that the number of impaired driving Toronto cases is close to the one of careless driving...this is sad and I hope someone will do something about this.

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