Convict of drunken driving deserves harsh punishment: SC

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New Delhi, Jul 14 (UNI) In a bid to bring discipline on the roads in the country, the Supreme Court has ruled that drunken driving is a serious offence and deserves harsh and strict punishment to the offender.

A Bench comprising Justices P K Thakker and D K Jain made the observation while hearing a case of a person found guilty of rash and negligent driving in Mangalore district of Karnataka.

While maintaining the conviction of Manish Jalan, the apex court enhanced the amount of compensation to the victim's mother from Rs 5000 to Rs 1 lakh.

The apex court, however, reduced the sentence from 1 year imprisonment to the period alreay undergone on the basis of the statement of the victim's mother who had said in an affidavit that it was the will of the God that her son left her at an early age and that she has no objection if the conviction of the driver Manish Jalan was set aside and she was paid additional compensation.

Vasant Prabhu had died when hit by the tanker being driven by Jalan.

The Supreme Court directed Jalan to pay the compensation of Rs 1 lakh within three months to Ms H Sunanda Prabhu, the mother of the victim.

It, however, ruled in its judgement that, ''it is pertinent to note that there was no allegation aginst the appellant that at the time of accident he was under the influence of liquor or any other substance impairing his driving skills.

''It was a rash and negligent act simpliciter and not a case of driving in an inebriated condition which is undoubtedly an aggrivated offence warranting stricter and harsher punishment.'' The Supreme Court also rejected the plea of compounding the offence while noting that the courts were not using the provision of section 357 CrPC empowering the courts to award adequate compensation to the victim of road accidents and other crimes.

It, however, noted ''it goes without saying that the compensation should be reasonable which the person is able to pay.

If the accused is not in a position to pay the compensation to the injured or its dependants to which they are held entitled, there would be no reason for the court to direct such compensation.'' UNI SC AKJ RP GC1805

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