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Law Against Hit-and-Run

Context:

The recent nationwide protests by transporters and commercial drivers, particularly in Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, and Punjab, have highlighted the controversy surrounding Section 106 (2) of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023 (BNS). This section, imposing severe penalties for hit-and-run incidents, has sparked discontent among the driving community. The countrywide truckers’ strike has now been called off following the government’s assurance to consult stakeholders before implementing the contentious law against hit-and-run.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Hit-and-run Law Under Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023: Provisions and Implications
  2. Concerns of Protesters Regarding Section 106 (2) of BNS, 2023
  3. The Way Forward for Hit-and-Run Legislation

Hit-and-run Law Under Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023: Provisions and Implications

Provisions of the Hit-and-run Law (Section 106, BNS, 2023):

  • Part of Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, intended to replace the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  • Section 106 (2) prescribes penalties, including up to 10 years in jail and a fine, for fleeing an accident without reporting to the police or magistrate.
  • Immediate reporting after an accident shifts the charge to Section 106(1), with a maximum punishment of five years for causing death due to rash or negligent acts.
Need for the Law:
  • A response to alarming road accident statistics in India.
  • In 2022, India witnessed over 1.68 lakh road crash fatalities, averaging 462 deaths daily.
  • India experienced a 12% increase in road accidents and a 9.4% rise in fatalities, contrasting with a global decrease of 5% in road crash deaths.
  • More than half of road fatalities occurred on national and state highways, constituting less than 5% of the total road network.
  • India, with 1% of global vehicles, contributes to 10% of crash-related deaths and suffers an annual economic loss of 5-7% of its GDP due to road crashes.
Principle Underlying the Law:
  • Reflects a legislative intent to deter rash and negligent driving and punish those fleeing without aiding victims or reporting the incident.
  • The law enforces moral responsibility on offenders towards victims, aiming to instill prompt and responsible responses from drivers.
  • Parallels with Section 134 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, showcase the government’s commitment to ensuring immediate and responsible actions from drivers post-accidents.
  • Section 134 requires drivers to take reasonable steps for securing medical attention for injured persons, barring exceptional circumstances beyond their control.

Concerns of Protesters Regarding Section 106 (2) of BNS, 2023

Demands and Perceived Harsh Penalties:

  • Transporters and drivers seek withdrawal or amendment of Section 106 (2) of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023.
  • Protesters contend that prescribed penalties, including a 10-year imprisonment and a fine, are excessively severe.
  • A widely circulated view suggesting a Rs. 7 lakh fine is incorrect, but the maximum penalty and lack of specified fine raise concerns.

Challenges of Transport Industry:

  • Protesters argue that penalties fail to consider challenging work conditions like long hours and difficult roads.
  • Factors beyond driver’s control, such as poor visibility and fear of mob violence, complicate decision-making post-accidents.

Unfair Blame and Negative Industry Impact:

  • Drivers express concerns about unfair blame for accidents, irrespective of actual circumstances.
  • A punitive legislative approach may contribute to a negative impact on the perception and functioning of the transport industry.

Potential for Abuse and Lack of Differentiation:

  • Concerns raised about potential abuse by law enforcement agencies and the overall detrimental impact on the transport industry.
  • Section 106 (2) lacks differentiation between rash and negligent driving, leading to concerns about equitable application.
  • Exception for doctors in Section 106 (1) raises questions about fairness and equal treatment across sectors.

Contributory Factors Ignored:

  • Section 106(2) does not consider contributory factors in negligent acts, such as commuter behavior, road conditions, lighting, and other factors affecting driver responsibility.
  • Protesters emphasize the need for differentiation based on circumstances to avoid unfair prejudice against drivers in diverse situations.

The Way Forward for Hit-and-Run Legislation

Inclusive Consultations:

  • Initiate comprehensive consultations: Engage with stakeholders, particularly drivers and transport associations, to understand concerns and perspectives fully.

Emergency Response Protocol:

  • Establish standardized protocol: Develop a clear protocol for emergency response, emphasizing the importance of prompt reporting while ensuring driver safety.

Differentiation in Law:

  • Categorization based on liabilities: Differentiate the law based on accident outcomes (death, grievous hurt, simple hurt, or minor injuries) with corresponding punishments.

Clarity in Reporting and Evidence:

  • Clarify reporting procedures: Clearly outline reporting procedures and evidence requirements for drivers to prove innocence or present mitigating factors.

Alternative Measures for Minor Offenses:

  • Reassess penalties for minor injuries: Minor injuries resulting from road accidents should not equate to criminal acts; explore alternatives like community service, license revocation, or mandatory retests.

Investment in Infrastructure and Safety:

  • Improve road infrastructure: Invest in enhanced road infrastructure, visibility measures, and safety features to mitigate accidents and reduce the likelihood of hit-and-run incidents.

International Best Practices:

  • Study and incorporate best practices: Explore successful models from countries with effective hit-and-run legislation, adapting them to the Indian context for improved road safety.

-Source: The Hindu

 


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