New Delhi, Jul 13 (ILNS)A Public Interest Litigation has been filed in the Supreme Court, seeking directions to the Union of India to safeguard the lives of road users undergoing death and injuries in road accidents by covering penal provisions under Sections 279, 304A, 337 and 338 of IPC into non-bailable offences and reverse the onus on accused, by invoking power under Article 142 of the Constitution.
The PIL further sought direction to take appropriate steps to reduce the vehicle density on roads by restricting the people from buying more than two vehicles in a family as in Singapore and directions to all states High Court to direct their subordinate Courts to entertain the accident cases and decide the bail applications on merits and not in a routine manner under Section 436, so that the fear of law is generated in the mind of the accused and road users.
The petition has been filed by final year student of law, Shrikant Prasad, as in-person.
According to the PIL, clean technology gains will be lost if the numbers of vehicles increase in the city. India has one of the largest road networks in the world, of over 5,897,671 km (3,664,643 mi) of roads as on March 31, 2017.
This is the second-largest road network in the world, consisting of National Highways, Expressways, State Highways, Major District Roads, Other District Roads and Village Roads. At 1.80 km of roads per sq km of land, India has approximately 4.87 km of roads per 1,000 people, which is much lower compared to developed countries.
About 65 per cent of freight and 86.7 percent passenger traffic is carried by the roads. Roads are used not only by the motorized transport, but also by non-motorized transport, as well as the pedestrians.
It was submitted by the petitioner that Road safety continues to be a major developmental issue, driving recklessly/dangerously, non-observance of traffic rules, like crossing speed limit, jumping red light, driving without driving licence, driving by untrained/disqualified driver, driving by minor, driving under the influence of liquor, driving while talking on mobile, driving without helmet, ill-health of vehicle and bad road infrastructure are amongst the causes of road accidents and come under the ambit of rash and negligent driving.
Mr Shrikant further submitted in the PIL that road accident was a public health concern and a leading cause of death and injury across the world, killing more than 1.35 million people globally, as reported in the Global Status report on Road Safety 2018 with 90 percent of these casualties taking place in developing countries and 11 percent alone being accounted for by India.
“India has a disreputable record of road accidents. There is a nonchalant attitude among the drivers. They feel they are the ‘Emperors of all they survey’. Drunkenness contributes to careless driving, where the other people become their prey. The poor feel that their lives are not safe, the pedestrians think of uncertainty and the civilised persons drive in constant fear, but still apprehensive about the obnoxious attitude of the people, who project themselves as ‘larger than life’,” alleged the petitioner.
The Petition said that Road accidents continue to be a leading cause of death, disabilities and hospitalization in the country despite our commitment and efforts. India ranks first in the number of road accident deaths across the 199 countries and accounts for almost 11% of the accident related deaths in the World.
It is highlighted that as per the Road Accident Report for 2019, a total number of 449,002 accidents took place in the country during the calendar year 2019 leading to 151,113 deaths and 451,361 injuries .In percentage terms, the number of accidents decreased by 3.86 % in 2019 over that of the previous year, while the accident related deaths decreased by 0.20 % and the persons injured decreased by 3.86. The decline in road accidents, killings and injury reported during the calendar year 2019 appear to have been a result of the Motor Vehicle Act implemented in States from September Ist 2019 which focused on road safety and included, inter-alia, stiff hike in penalties for traffic violations as well as electronic enforcement.
Like in the previous years, the working age group of 18–60 accounted for a share of 84 percent in the total road accident deaths.Under the category of Traffic Rule Violations, over speeding continued to be a major killer even in 2019, accounting for 67 percent of the persons killed followed by driving on the wrong side of the road which accounted for six percent of the accident related deaths, the PIL stated.
The petitioner further submitted that in 2019, the Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways (MRTH) focused on identification and rectification of Black spots and identified 5583 black spots in the country in 2018.
The identification of these Black Spots has been a critical intervention and helped the Ministry to focus and plan out its rectification efforts. The matter is being reviewed in a systematic manner with a portal being prepared for it and the progress being reviewed at the highest level periodically.
It further said that increase in the number of vehicles has led to higher Air pollution, threatening the health of the people, a well as the environmental. Vehicular emissions depend on age of vehicle, emission rate of different vehicle categories.
With deteriorating mass transport services and increasing personalised motor vehicle use, vehicular emission is assuming serious dimensions in most Indian cities. Nearly 20 percent of passenger transport emission is by private automobiles, although they only contribute four percent of total passenger transport activity in Indian cities, the petitioner alleged.
The PIL further stated that urban residents exposed to traffic pollution were at potentially higher risk of health effects from exposure to carcinogenic poly-aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) compounds.
Studies showed that PAH ratio decreased significantly as a function of distance from the road. The new (2005) guidelines by the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommend revised limits for the concentration of selected air pollutants – particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide.
These guidelines are much lower than the standards set by the National Ambient Air Standard prescribed by Central Pollution Control Board, India. (14) However, measured levels of these in Indian cities were found to be unsatisfactory, largely because of high levels of respirable suspended Particulate matter.
“Their levels were as high as 10 times in some cities like Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai.(15) Contribution of automobiles in total air pollution is reported between 40–80%. For Delhi’s ambient air quality, the contribution of the transport sector was estimated as high as 72 percent,” read the PIL.
The petitioner referred to the case of Abdul sharif vs haryana 2016 where Supreme Court held the nonchalant attitude of driver need to be curbed by making the sec 304a of ipc harsher.
Further, reliance was made on the case of State of Punjab vs saurabh bakshi 2015 in which the Top Court -held section 304a of IPC shall be revisited as there is no apprehension in the mind of drivers.
The petitioner also gave following suggestions in the PIL:-
(1) Amendment in Section 304A of the Indian Penal Code to make the offence of rash and negligent driving punishable with the maximum term of imprisonment of ten years, instead of two years and non bailable along with the shift of onus on accused as at present provided.
(2) Amendment in Sections 279, 337 and 338 of the Indian Penal Code to make these offences non-bailable.
(3) As the number of road accidents are increasing day-by-day across the country due to the increasing number of vehicles and rash driving, to curb the accidents, the law must be made with few deterrent effects, as there is no fear in the mind of the offender.