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‘Increasing 2-wheeler riders, opposition to helmet law major challenges before police’

Ranjit Gadgil, who heads Parisar, tells The Indian Express about difficulties the police are likely to face in imposing the helmet law.

Pune |
November 25, 2018 6:12:50 am
Ranjit Gadgil

Is this the first time that the state government tried to impose the helmet law?

The law that all two-wheeler riders need to wear a helmet exists since 1988. The only exception is a turban-wearing Sikh. The state government also has the authority to make certain exemptions for certain people wearing the helmet. The Maharashtra government did provide some exemptions, but in 2003, the Bombay High Court struck those down and made it mandatory to enforce the helmet law across the state. In 2005, a PIL was filed and the High Court once again iterated that the 2003 order has not been followed and that the law be implemented. But here we are 13 years later still raising the same issues.

How difficult is it going to be for government officials to impose the helmet law for the third time after failing the first two times?
There are three reasons why it is going to difficult. First, the number of two-wheeler riders is huge. Secondly, a lot of people feel they are not doing anyone else any harm by not wearing a helmet. The helmet rule is different from the other traffic rules in the sense that other rules affect other drivers too, when not followed. For example, breaking the traffic signal rules and drunk driving can cause harm to other drivers as well. So, the public has the feeling that it is a matter of choice for them in deciding whether to wear a helmet or not. Thirdly, every time the police tried to enforce this law in the past, they were met with stiff opposition, which made them take a step back. This has emboldened the people to oppose the law.

A certain section of the public believes that the helmet law shouldn’t be imposed on them since they are not doing anyone else any harm by not wearing them…

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The Bombay High Court pointed out when there are issues of larger public health, the state has an obligation to put in place rules and regulations that are meant for the benefit of everybody. It is just like the laws for vaccination and sending children to school. And secondly, the court pointed out that the Constitution does not provide any Right to Death, only Right to Life.

Another argument the people use is that the governments should fix other problems like bad road and traffic before imposing a helmet rule. There are two counter arguments to this. One is that you cannot link other issues to this particular issue. This is called the straw man argument. Secondly, this is a counter productive argument because bad roads actually make it more necessary to wear helmets.

Some people say that helmets are a discomfort and cites medical problems as to why the law shouldn’t be imposed…
People need to understand that riding a vehicle is not a right or a privilege. A person needs to have a licence to operate a vehicle. He has to show he is physically and mentally qualified to drive a vehicle. If a person has neck pain or other issues that prevents him from wearing a helmet, it means he is physically impaired and is not qualified to ride a two-wheeler.

Pune residents, including activists, NGOs and politicians, have formed a group called Anti-Helmet Compulsion Action Committee to protest against this imposition. Any comment…
Residents can raise their voice. They are within the constitutional right to do so. With political parties, however, it is highly irresponsible on their part because as elected representatives, they need to think not just about what is populist but also what is in the benefit of the society. At the local level, the political parties are using public sentiment and populism to oppose the rule to gain the support of the people. But as a common man, it is your right to raise your voice against a law. But if you are a government functionary, it could constitute contempt of court and we are not afraid to take legal options against them.

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First published on: 25-11-2018 at 06:12:50 am

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