Road accidents in India are not a rare event on the contrary it has become a daily occurring event. The figures are astonishing, according to the data provided by the road ministry in 2018 India has reported a total of 467,044 which is 0.5%more than the preceding year. If we look at these stats from a different angle it means every day, we lose 4 people owing to the road accidents in our country which is nothing less than intimidating. Every year these road accidents cost India its GDP by 3-5% which further affects the economy and the circle goes on. In the above case the petitioner a public-spirited citizen has filed a petition under Article 32 for the positive response of the government on the implementation of safety norms and the treatment of the victim.
The petition is filed under article 32 of the constitution is a public interest litigation since the petitioner, Dr Rajaseekaran who is the HoD of orthopedic surgery, at a hospital, based in Coimbatore had no benefit of his own but was concerned about the road safety norms failure and the rampant incidents of accidents taking place because of the non-implementation of road safety regulations. On 22nd April 2014, the court passed an order for the constitution of a committee for Road safety headed by Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan. The committee submitted its report and issued directions in the matter to which the state government did not pay much attention. This petition fundamentally raises objection on the act of avoidance by the state Governments. Since the governments of different states did not show the intention of complying with the directions the central government on 11th April 2017 introduced it as a bill in the house.
The primary issue that was brought forth by the petitioner in this petition was how to ensure road safety norms and the regulations regarding the treatment of victims of road accidents because these two concerns are the only reasons why the country observes at least four deaths every day. Besides the main issue petitioner also brought two important issues in the light of the court. Since the nature of the petition is nonadversarial in nature the secondary issues are more like suggestions to the court by the way of the petition;
- That the implementation shall be done not only keeping an eye the number of accidents in place but also that many accidents do not get reported and to prevent such activities the policies need to be apprehensive.
- The petitioner also relies upon the statistics offered by ministry of road transport which are disturbing in nature and the data suggests that the major committers were between 18 to 24 of age, the petitioner through this stat wants to direct judiciaries attention upon the non-implementation of policies by the State governments for controlling this rampant activities.
The petition being public-spirited in nature and not adversarial takes upon the entire statute of Motor Vehicles Act 1988 as weak legislation and throughout the petition, the petitioner has earmarked the loopholes in the statute. The petitioner discuses section 215 of the Motor Vehicles Act which directs the states to constitute a road safety council.
The petitioner relies upon the guidelines issued by the Court in the case of Pt. Parmanand Katara vs Union of India [1989 AIR 2039] for the medical treatment given to the victims of road accidents.
The petitioner further relies on the case of S. Rajaseekaran vs Union of India 1 [22nd April, 2014] for the previous guidelines issued for the safety norms in the case of road accidents.
The petitioner, Coimbatore based surgeon through his working experience has mentioned in the petition that how 90% of road accident matters occurs due to poor implementation of rules. The petitioner also made it clear that every day we lose at least 4 human lives due to the rampant disobedience of rules on the part of the general public. The court notes that in the year of 2015-16 the insurance companies have spent Rs 11,480 crores by way of compensation, it did not stop here we nearly came to a position where we lost life at every three minutes.
The constitution of the committee for road safety norms in furtherance of the order passed by the Apex Court on 22nd April 2014, which was headed by Justice K. Radhakrishnan submitted in its report that the poor implementation of policies was sole reason, why the no of deaths owing to road accidents kept on increasing. The report basically laid the foundation for the guidelines issued by the court of law.
In the last decade we have seen both, the zenith and the lowest point of casualties due to road accidents. The first half was the result of Carefree attitude of the state governments on framing effective policies whereas, the other half was the result of apprehension by the government on the sensitivity of the situation. We have seen some revolutionary policies of the Delhi Government regarding the hospitalization of the victims of road accidents.
The newly introduced Amendment by the government in the motor vehicles act hits the bull’s eye on the loopholes of the previous laws. The Act unleashes heavy penalties and has enhanced the penalizing degree which seems to be an effective instrument for ensuring that the general public abides by the rules. In my personal opinion, the directions passed by the court in this case, laid the foundation for the introduction the amendment bill by the government in both the houses. The directions passed are essential for a safer adventure on the roads and are visionary in nature.
In the last 2-3 years the cases of road accidents have shown a fall by 6% which is a huge achievement, the state governments are now looking to work in accordance with the directions of Supreme court with a common goal of SAFER ROADS ARE EFFECTIVE AND CHEAP INSURANCE.
The court after sensing the gravity of the situation that the non-implementation of policies by states has led and after analyzing various reports and findings by the committee came up with following directions that are to be observed in its entirety.
- The state road safety policy shall be followed strictly by the states.
- There shall be strict compliance under section 215 of vehicles act 1988 where the road safety council shall be established in each state.
- To set up a road safety fund and road safety cell for properly addressing these issues.
- To formulate a road safety action plan in every state to reduce the accidents taking place and to bring down the mortality rate.
- To constitute a district road safety committee which will be headed by the district collector.
- The government should make the roads much safer than they ever were to ensure that the general public is free from any kind of exposure to unfortunate events on the road.
- Traffic calming measures in vulnerable areas such as schools, hospitals shopping malls as most accidents take place in these regions.
- The Government should install more cameras and surveillance system to keep a check on the perpetrators.
- Fitment of ABS in bikes and AIS 146 airbags in four-wheelers.
- The Crash test shall be fundamental in light motor vehicles.
- The Location tracking system should be introduced in motor vehicles.
The court issued these directions in the case under the objective of defying the rampant road accidents taking place. In the last two years the lives lost by road accidents have depreciated by 6% and further continues to do so.
Analyzed by Varunendra Pandey, Intern (June, 2020)
Reviewed by Lexstructor
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