Noting that “uncontrolled propensity for adventure” and “competition to pick up the speed” has been dealt with iron hands, the Supreme Court Wednesday urged the government to enhance punishment for those who talk on their mobile phones while driving, and provide for exemplary penalty for driving dangerously.
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The appeal by a bench led by Justice Dipak Misra was supported by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who also said that the punishment for driving dangerously was inadequate under the Motor Vehicles Act and was required to be revisited.
A bench led by Justice Dipak Misra was hearing a case of rash and negligent driving when it sought the assistance of the AG in examining whether pertinent statutes required amendments to have more stringent punishment where rash and negligent driving causes death.
The court was initially concerned that a maximum punishment of two years in jail with fine under Section 304A of the IPC may not serve the purpose of a law being deterrent, which could be an “imperative” necessity at times.
Rohatgi agreed with the bench that cases of death due to rash driving required “stern handling”, but pointed out that enhancing punishment under Section 304A might not serve the purpose, since this provision was applicable not only to causing death due to negligent driving but also all other slack acts that could result in somebody’s death.
At this the bench said: “There are individuals who drive the vehicle because of their uncontrolled propensity for adventure. They really do not care for the lives of others. It can be stated with certitude that the number of vehicles in the country has increased in geometrical manner and the people are in a competition to pick up the speed.”
The court expressed its seriousness in tackling the issue of dangerous driving and told the AG that innocent people could not die due to “whims, fancy and adventurism” of those behind the wheels who harbour the notion that they are “larger than life”.
On his part, Rohatgi said that death due to reckless driving by others was “tragic” and that it required to be curbed with iron hands. He added that many such accidents take place because people use mobile phones while driving and get distracted.
The court was apprised that such offenders are booked under Section 184 of the Motor vehicles Act, which entailed punishment for driving dangerously. This provision provided for a maximum jail term of six months or a only fine of Rs 1000 for the first offence. Imprisonment for two years or a fine of Rs 2000 is provided for a subsequent offence.
The bench observed that Section 184 was drafted in a manner that those booked under it could get off the hook only by paying a paltry sum of Rs 1000 or Rs 2000, without the need to serve any time behind bars. When asked, the AG said that the punishment under Section 184 was inadequate.
“We appreciate the concern shown by Mr. Rohtagi and, we are sure, he will apprise the competent authorities to have a revisit of the relevant provisions.” said the bench while fixing the matter for hearing next in December. It also requested advocate Madhavi Divan to
assist the AG in this matter.