The Gujarat High Court (HC) on Monday, while confirming the trial court conviction and sentence of 2013 BMW hit-and-run accused Vismay Shah, observed that “the state of Indian roads” cannot be ignored by the court, where heavy four-wheelers such as trucks and buses ply on the same road as cars, and motorcyclists, cyclists, and pedestrians have no option “but to commute on the same road”.
Listing out several of the amendments made in 2019 in the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, the order pronounced by the court of Justice Sonia Gokani observed, “We, as citizens, unfortunately, have very scant respect or regard for human life, which is, since, found in abundance in this country, and have least respect for smaller vehicles or persons going on bicycles or for pedestrians walking on the road. The traffic rules by and large to an average citizen on the T-Junctions, crossroads and otherwise are alien and its observance and implementation is more often in breach.”
In a bid to reform convicts of road rage accidents, Justice Gokani recommended that the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment can work in tandem with the jail authority, and those convicts “shall need to undergo the service to the community… unfortunately because of the conduct of the convict, there has been a loss of human life”.
In the order, which was made public on Tuesday, while the court did not increase the sentence as sought by the Gujarat government, it directed Shah to pay Rs 2 lakh to the state. This, Justice Gokani directed, will be utilised to provide compensation to victims of hit-and-run accidents in cases where the vehicle owners or drivers could not be traced.
The order also refers to the World Health Organisation (WHO) report in the ‘Global Status Report on Road Safety’, to reiterate that speeding and drunken driving are the major contributing factors in road accidents and that as per the 2018 report, India accounted for almost 11 per cent of accident-related deaths in the world.
Justice Gokani further observed that “approximately half of all deaths on the country’s roads are of motorcyclists, pedestrians and cyclists”, while reiterating that the apex court had recommended to the lawmakers to “revisit section 304A of the Indian Penal Code, when the Indian road conditions,… is extremely worrisome”.
In the accident that occurred on February 24, 2013, near Lad Society, Judges Bungalow, at Vastrapur in Ahmedabad, two youths — Shivam Dave (25) and Rahul Patel (21) — were killed. The families of the victims were compensated with Rs 1.5 crore in immovable property and cash combined.
The HC also recorded that the families of the victims “have no grievance against the appellant (Shah), and has in fact prayed for the court to take a lenient view and also has urged for sentence of imprisonment to be reduced with sufficient amount of compensation having been paid…”
The court noted, “Having lost the only son who were on the verge of initiating their career, their (the families) having agreed to monetary and other benefits by way of compensation cannot be surely frowned upon.”
Shah had sought that his sentence of five years’ rigorous imprisonment be reduced and had submitted that the time he had spent in judicial custody of one-and-half years, be deemed sufficient. The court, however, rejected the plea.
Vismay, a businessman and son of a city-based doctor, was found guilty of rash driving and negligence causing fatal accident under Section 304, part-II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the IPC. The trial court in its 2015 verdict, had also ordered Vismay to pay Rs 5 lakh as compensation to each of the two families of the victims. Shah was also fined Rs 25,000.
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