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India’s new Hit-and-Run Law

By Amigos IAS

Why is it in the news?

  • Transporters and commercial drivers from states like Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, and Punjab are protesting against recent legislation regarding hit-and-run incidents.

New Legislation (Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita, 2023)

  • Section 106 (2) stipulates a penalty of up to 10 years in jail and a ₹7 lakh fine for fleeing an accident spot without reporting to a police officer or magistrate.
  • This law supplements the colonial-era Section 304A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, related to causing death due to rash or negligent acts.

 Reasons for the Protest

  • Transporters argue that the law imposes stringent punishment even for unintentional accidents.
  • Concerns about the penalty being excessive, not considering challenging work conditions, long driving hours, and difficult roads.
  • Drivers argue that accidents may result from factors beyond their control, like poor visibility due to fog.
  • Fear that the law could be misused by law enforcement agencies.

Need for the Law

  • A response to alarming figures of road accidents in India, with over 1.68 lakh fatalities in 2022.
  • Aims to deter drivers from reckless and negligent driving leading to death.
  • Imposes a legal duty on the offender to report the incident, enforcing moral responsibility towards the accident victim.
Data Analysis

·       National Crime Records Bureau recorded 47,806 hit-and-run incidents causing 50,815 deaths in 2022.

·       Despite a 5% global decrease in road crash deaths, India witnessed a 12% YoY increase in road accidents and a 9.4% increase in fatalities in the same year.

·       India, with 1% of the world’s vehicles, accounts for about 10% of crash-related deaths, causing a 5-7% annual GDP loss due to road crashes.

Suggestions

  • Advocate for revisiting and reconciling clauses to treat truck drivers and individual vehicle drivers fairly.
  • Note the exception for doctors in Section 106 (1), where the punishment is limited to two years with a fine for rash or negligent acts.
  • Emphasize the need for graded liability and punishment, separating acts of rash and negligent driving under different degrees of liability.
  • Propose alternatives for minor injuries, such as community service, license revocation, or mandatory driving retests, instead of equating them with criminal acts.

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