The Bombay High Court Tuesday asked the state government to inform them about the requirement of breathalysers per police station in Maharashtra to keep a check on cases of drunken driving in the state. The court emphasised that the task “has to be done urgently.”
According to the data provided by the government for Mumbai, there are 78 breathalysers out of which 54 are operating, while 65 are sponsored devices given by NGOs, all of which are working. But there is no maintenance for any of these devices. In the state, while there are 385 breathalysers, around 294 are in working condition.
The hit-and-run incident of 2002 involving actor Salman Khan had prompted journalist Nikhil Wagle to file a Public Interest Litigation seeking stricter action against drunken driving.
“Tell us how many devices are required per police station so we can pass orders for purchase of the devices. We don’t understand why you are taking so much time,” said Justice A S Oka.
Justice Oka questioned if the devices were locally procured. On being told that they were, he said, “If that is the case, then budget should not be a problem.”
At the last hearing, the state was asked to inform on the adequacy of breathalysers and the number of functioning devices available with it. Both the state and the Centre were asked to tell the court if they would frame rules or guidelines to carry out breath tests and blood sampling.
The court pointed out that the total number of cases of drunken driving in Mumbai had increased from 16,525 in 2013 to 17,849 in 2015.But the number of licences suspended as per court orders had reduced from 3,422 in 2013 to 1,826 in 2015.
The court said steps needed to be taken to ensure speedy collection of blood samples. The state’s reply submitted before the court stated “Considering the last five year data of blood alcohol in Forensic Science Laboratories under Prohibition Act including Motor Vehicle Act about 178 cases per month are received on an average. Out of the 178 cases, 38 cases are of MV Act per month. Hence it is not advisable to make blood alcohol testing facility at district, civil hospitals and primary health centers.” Presently, there are eight forensic science labs in the state.
The state said while it would look into making alcohol-testing facilities available at district and primary health centres, it would require infrastructure and certification. Government pleader Abhinandan Vagyani said that 45 mobile forensic support units under the control of DGP, crime scene investigations, were being set up in the state.
The Centre also suggested that a person drinking at a bar or restaurant should give a declaration on who was going to drive the vehicle, but the court said that was not practical.