Driving dangerously and breaking road traffic laws may now land you in more trouble than before. The Supreme Court has ruled that road traffic offences can be prosecuted under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as well as the Motor Vehicles Act. It set aside a Gauhati High Court order to prosecute offenders of road accidents under Motor Vehicles Act only. The punishment for offenders in case of motor vehicle accidents is stricter under the IPC compared to the MVA.
A bench comprising Justices Indu Malhotra and Justice Sanjiv Khanna said the sentence imposed by courts should be 'commensurate with the seriousness of the offence and should have a deterring effect on wrongdoers
The bench said: "This court has time and again emphasised on the need to strictly punish offenders responsible for causing motor vehicle accidents. With rapidly increasing motorisation, India is facing an increasing burden of road traffic injuries and fatalities."
The top court said that if the IPC gives way to the MV Act, and the provisions of CrPC succumb to the provisions of the MV Act, as held by the High Court, then cases of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, causing death, or grievous hurt, or simple hurt by rash and negligent driving would become compoundable, which is less serious in nature and allows compromise between the victim and offender, with or without the permission of courts. Under compoundable offences, upon a compromise the upon a compromise the offender is acquitted without any trial.
"Such an interpretation would have the consequence of letting an offender get away with a fine by pleading guilty, without having to face any prosecution for the offence committed. The financial loss, emotional and social trauma caused to a family on losing the breadwinner or incapacitation of the victim cannot be quantified," said the top court.
"The principle of proportionality between the crime and punishment has to be borne in mind," the bench observed.
(With inputs from Live Law)