Even though the percentage of two-wheeler riders dying in road accidents in the city is the highest — 37.4 per cent, followed by pedestrians, 32.82 per cent — the women have the privilege of not wearing a “protective headgear” or a helmet while riding a two-wheeler. This, despite the fact that the women two-wheeler drivers are increasingly becoming victims of road accidents.
Since 2010 till March 31 this year, 35 women driving or riding two-wheelers have died in road accidents and 234 have been injured.
Out of these 35 victims, 22 women were in the age group of 15 to 40 years, nine in 40 to 60 years, one each in 0-15 and 60 years above. Officials of the accident analysis cell, who visit a spot after the accident to ascertain the cause of the accident, say that in most accidents involving women who do not wear helmets, there is no major injury to the body except the head.
Senior Superintendent of Police (Traffic and Security) Maneesh Chaudhry said, “Police are a law enforcement agency. If the law has been made by the UT Administration exempting women from wearing helmets, we cannot do anything about it. However, personally, I advise all women to wear helmets.”
When in 2000, the UT Administration tried making helmets compulsory for women, several Sikh religious organisations staged protests. An order issued on July 9, 1998, by the Punjab and Haryana High Court made it compulsory for women to wear helmets. However, the order was quashed by the Supreme Court.
JUDICIAL DIRECTIONS AND WHAT THE UT DID
While the Punjab and Haryana High Court had made helmets compulsory for women, including Sikh women, the Supreme Court bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat and Prakash Prabhakar Naolekar had made it clear in their judgment, dated September 27, 2004, that helmets should be made compulsory for women, except Sikh women.
The SC judgment mentioned that as per Rule 193 of the Chandigarh Motor Vehicles Rules of 1990, “Sikh women are exempted from wearing the helmets and therefore high court could not have given direction contrary to the suggestion”.
The bench then said that if any exemption was granted to any person including Sikh women from any of the Motor Vehicles Rules relating to different states or areas or under any statutory rule, “the same shall operate notwithstanding the directions of the High Court that all persons including women shall wear helmets”.
However, while passing the notification after the judgment, the Chandigarh Administration exempted all women from wearing helmets. The notification read, “Every person driving or riding a motorcycle of any class or description shall wear a protective headgear…. persons who are medically advised not to wear such a headgear in case exempted by District Magistrate or a woman shall not be required to wear a headgear.”
Also, as per Section 129 of the Motor Vehicle Act, which makes it compulsory to wear a helmet, states that provisions of this section are not applicable to a person who is a Sikh, if he is while driving or riding the motorcycle is wearing a turban.
Asked if the administration was considering amending the rule on the lines of the Delhi government, Saravjit Singh, the UT Finance Secretary who is also holding the charge of Secretary Transport, said that the issue was “not under active consideration”. “We will see what can be done,” he said.
HELMET-LESS DEATHS DATA NOT MAINTAINED
The road accidents analysis cell, which keeps preparing the data of the accidents and analyses it, does not have any data of deaths caused due to helmet-less driving. “We get to know about the fatal accidents from the FIRs. In the First Information Report, the police never mention that if the victim was wearing a helmet or not. If that is mentioned in the FIR, the person booked for causing the accident is acquitted and also creates a problem for the advocates in getting MACT claims for the family of the deceased,” said an official.
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