Rush accident victims to hospital, Good Samaritans must get appreciation: SC

According to the Global Road Safety Report, 2015, released by the World Health Organisation, a staggering 2 lakh people died in road accidents in India in 2014.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Published: April 3, 2016 4:29 am
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From now on, helping an accident victim will earn you a ‘Good Samaritan’ badge of honour, not the harassment at the hands of police and hospital authorities that most people dread.

A Supreme Court bench of Justices V Gopala Gowda and Arun Mishra has directed state governments to prepare a format for a certificate of appreciation and distribute it to hospitals “for incentivising the bystander or Good Samaritan” who helps save lives by rushing victims of road mishaps for medical care.

The court has also issued a string of other directions to make certain that no person helping an accident victim is forced to disclose his or her identity, is detained in a hospital or a police station for questioning, is forced to take the witness box in a court, or is summoned by police.

“There is need to evolve the system by promptly providing effective care system with certain ethical and legal principles. It is absolutely necessary that Good Samaritans feel empowered to act without fear of adverse consequence. There is need to provide certain incentives to Good Samaritans,” the court noted.

Underscoring that almost 50 per cent of accident victims can be saved if they are taken to hospitals by bystanders or passersby, the bench said getting their support was “essential to enhance the chances of survival of victim in the ‘Golden Hour’ i.e. the first hour of the injury.”

According to the Global Road Safety Report, 2015, released by the World Health Organisation, a staggering 2 lakh people died in road accidents in India in 2014. The WHO number was almost 46 per cent more than the statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for that year.

While the total deaths estimated by the WHO for 2014 were 2, 07,551, the number of deaths reported under the head ‘Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India’ by the NCRB was 1, 41,526. Even by the NCRB’s data, 16 people lost their lives every hour on average in 2014.

Globally, 1.25 million people die in road accidents annually, the WHO said.

The apex court held that the right to life as enshrined in Article 21 also included the right to safety of persons while travelling on the road and hence, immediate medical assistance is required to be provided to safeguard such a valuable right.

For ensuring people’s lives are protected, the bench said, adequate legal protection and prevention from harassment of Good Samaritans is a must because people choose not to come forward to help the accident victims, fearing police cases and unending rounds in the court as witnesses.

The court regretted that many victims are left to bleed to death while people keep waiting for the police to take them to hospitals.

Taking into account two notifications issued by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and suggestions by Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, the bench approved the guidelines issued by the central government in May 2015 and January 2016, and underlined they would operate as the law of the land until a legislation for affording protection to Good Samaritans is enacted.

The court rejected the idea that the acknowledgment for the Good Samaritans had to wait until a format was standardised by the state governments, and said that such certificates of appreciation should be distributed immediately on a letterhead or office pad to be prescribed by the state governments.

If he so desires, such a certificate will mention the name of the Good Samaritan, address, time, date, place of occurrence, and confirm that the injured person was brought to a hospital by him, the court said.

The directives were issued on a PIL moved by NGO Savelife Foundation, which had argued for the development of a supportive legal framework to protect those who render help to the victims of road accidents.

LEGAL COVER from top court

> Bystander/Good Samaritan shall not be detained by hospital or police station; will be allowed to leave immediately after furnishing address; will have no civil, criminal liability

> Those making phone calls to police or emergency services shall not be compelled to reveal names, details; action shall be initiated against public officials and policemen who force them to do so

> An acknowledgment as certificate of appreciation will be given to Good Samaritan

> Good Samaritan will not be forced to become a witness in a case; in case he wants to become a witness, his affidavit will be usually considered as his complete statement

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  1. P
    Apr 3, 2016 at 1:32 am
    That is a good start, but if there is some foul play, like murderer states I found this fellow on the road and rushed him, so give me badge of honour, under good Samaritan rules, this side needs to be covered somehow, otherwise rest is gold.
    1. A
      Apr 3, 2016 at 3:47 am
      The special consideration in awarding punishment/fines, in all cases of accidents needs to be provided, if the accused has moved the victims to nearby medical facility .
      1. D
        Apr 3, 2016 at 2:46 am
        Kudos to SC for such brilliant directives!! This would certainly encourage the good Samaritans to help the road accident victims many of whom unfortunately die due to lack of timely medical help.
        1. R
          Apr 3, 2016 at 3:46 am
          I recently helped an accident victim and I along with one more guy got him admitted to Kalyani Hospital, Gurgaon. the hospital staf asked to sign some formality and my contact details. I got little nervous, though they told me that its just a formality and nothing to be concerned about. lt;br/gt;thank you Sc for your wonderful judgement.
          1. Murthy Suppusamy
            Apr 4, 2016 at 10:03 pm
            This is what Aristotle/Plato observed about 2100 years back. Every solution to a problem is the stepping stone of next problem. And I am not convinced that these guidelines will be followed. First of all, Supreme Court rules on Law. It rules as charges are proved as charged and hence so-and-so is ordered to be imprisioned for a term of 5 years. That's criminal. Or on Civil case, the Courts are suppose to rule as pleaded by Plaintiff or reject as pleaded. There ends the way how British Courts and USA Courts operate!. But, in India Judges are afraid to use the power given to them, because they are not well qualified or not expert on every case brought to them. For example, when the Italian marines were arrested the Kerala court did't seem to have made sincere effort to do the best. In US, the Law is written in such a way for Jury trial. In INdia the Jury trial was ended by 1957 Central Govt, without a national referendum or widely accepted way, and the Judges made to rule on Verdicts. Judges are meant to run the Trials in USA. They don't decide guilty or not-guilty, both in Criminal or Civil case. This is the confusion that many judges have talked about, the reform process is very slow in India.
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