Mockery of Justice? Rich and mighty get away easily for rash driving, need revision in laws: SC
New Delhi, Mar 31: At a time when the NDA government, succumbing under stiff pressure from opposition, has planned to dilute penalties proposed in its road safety bill, the Supreme Court has asked lawmakers to "scrutinise, re-look and re-visit" the penal laws to award stringent sentences to traffic violators.
Terming light sentences being awarded in road accident cases as "mockery of justice", an irked Supreme Court on Monday asked lawmakers to "scrutinise, re-look and re-visit" the penal laws saying the poor's life was as worth living as that of the rich.
"We are compelled to observe that India has a disreputable record of road accidents. There is a nonchalant attitude among the drivers. They feel that they are the 'Emperors' of all they survey. Drunkenness contributes to careless driving where 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'," a bench of justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant said.
"Life to the poor or the impecunious is as worth living for as it is to rich and the luxuriously temperamental...," the bench said, adding, "we are bound to observe that the lawmakers should scrutinise, re-look and re-visit the sentencing policy in Section 304A, IPC. We say so with immense anguish."
As per a TOI report, the road transport ministry has watered down the penalties it had originally proposed in the Draft Road Transport and Safety Bill.
The government had earlier made tall claims of bringing road safety laws to discipline drivers in order to reduce road deaths drastically. As per the report, the government has diluted the punishment for rash driving and negligent driving under the influence of alcohol.
Section 304A of the IPC deals with the offence of causing death by rash and negligent act and provides for imprisonment for maximum of two years or fine or both.
The observations came in a verdict on an appeal filed by the state government against the order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in a road accident case in which two persons were killed on June 14, 2007.
The High Court had partly allowed the plea of convict Saurabh Bakshi and reduced his jail term from one year to 24 days, already undergone during the trial.
"In our opinion, it is a fit case where we are constrained to say that the High Court has been swayed away by the passion of mercy in applying the principle that payment of compensation is a factor for reduction of sentence to 24 days. It is absolutely in the realm of misplaced sympathy," it said.
The apex court awarded six months jail term to the convict and asked him to surrender "forthwith". The court said such a sentencing pattern is "mockery of justice" and observed "such a crime blights not only the lives of the victims but of many others around them. It ultimately shatters the faith of the public in judicial system."
The bench, while dealing with the facts of the case, said "this court has been constantly noticing the increase in number of road accidents and has also noticed how the vehicle drivers have been totally rash and negligent."
(With inputs from agencies)