Bring in Stringent Law against Rash Driving

Published: 01st April 2015 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 31st March 2015 11:05 PM   |  A+A-

A Bench of the Supreme Court has suggested the need for a stringent law to deal with rash and negligent driving leading to death of innocents. It is of the opinion that two years of imprisonment and fine, as the Indian Penal Code (IPC) provides for, are insufficient to deter potential violators. India has a very high rate of road mishaps. For instance, in 2013, an estimated 1.38 lakh people died in road mishaps in India. Over 80 per cent of the deaths were caused by drunken or negligent driving. Seen against this background, the court’s suggestion is most welcome. It has also come at a very opportune moment.

The road transport ministry has, of late, been busy drafting a new law to tackle the growing problem of road accidents. The original draft law it prepared had many enabling provisions which would have addressed the concerns expressed by the apex court. To give an example, the original draft provided for a punishment of seven years’ imprisonment if negligent driving led to the death of a child. The revised draft published on the ministry’s website has shocked many think tanks and other agencies concerned at the growing number of road accidents. They believe that the watered version of the law is unlikely to disciple erring drivers. In other words, the purpose of the very law would be lost.

The Supreme Court’s concern should induce the central government to take a close look at the proposed law. It is true that certainty of punishment, rather than the severity of it, deters crime. It is also true that if the punishment is minimal or inadequate, it will not act as a deterrent. How ridiculous the punishment for drunken or negligent driving that leads to death can be gauged by the fact that while killing a bullock for food would fetch a 10-year-imprisonment in Haryana, killing a person on road brings only two years’ imprisonment. The influential and the moneyed are able to get away by claiming that they were not at the steering wheel when the accident occurred.


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