Treat Drink Driving As Culpable Homicide: Parliamentary Standing Committee
- There is a call for the inclusion of drink driving under culpable homicide
- This was a part of the review of the Amendment Bill
- Drink Driving was responsible for 20,186 deaths over 2013 and 2015
New Delhi: Over six months after the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill was first introduced in the Lok Sahbha, the Parliamentary Standing Committee tasked with its review finally tabled its report last week. While the report makes an array of suggestions to further toughen the legislative framework, the most significant of these is the committee’s decidedly tough stance against drink driving. Recognising it as “a major cause of road accidents”, the report recommends that the Government should amend existing legislation to consider deaths caused by drink driving as ‘culpable homicide not amounting to murder’. If included in the Amendment Bill, this would be a complete change from India’s traditional approach to drink driving.
According to official estimates, 4.6 per cent of India’s road fatality figures are directly linked to drink driving. In 2015, drink driving caused 16,298 accidents and 18,813 across India. What is interesting is that while there has been a definite decline in drink driving accidents over the years, the number of fatalities remains much the same. Data between 2013 and 2015 shows that while injuries and accidents have reduced by 6.3 per cent, deaths caused by drink driving have increased by 4.5 per cent.
The Motor Vehicles Act 1988 which is currently applicable prescribes up to 6 months imprisonment and a fine of ₹2,000 for drink driving. The accidents and deaths caused due to driving under the influence of alcohol are tried as ‘acts of negligence’ in court. The 2016 Amendment Bill largely stuck to this approach but increased the fine to ₹10,000. However the Standing Committee has taken a sterner view, and recommended that accidents caused due to drink driving should not be considered as an act of negligence but as a “premeditated commitment to crime” and that individuals found guilty of this must be tried under the relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code.
What this essentially means is that individual found driving under the influence of alcohol would be considered to have knowledge of the possible consequences of their actions while not actually having the intention to kill.
This, according to experts, could help change attitudes around drink driving in India.
‘A Strong Deterrence’
“Long overdue, this recommendation (on treating drink driving as culpable homicide not amounting to murder) must be included in the final Act as drunken driving constitutes a major cause of road accidents and a majority of perpetrators in such cases go scot-free due to weak provisions in the existing law,” says Saji Cherian, Director, Operations, SaveLIFFE Foundation, welcoming the report.
Reiterating this view, Tuhin A. Sinha, who is a road safety expert and a consultant with the Ministry of Road Transportation and Highways tells NDTV that treating drink driving as culpable homicide could actually impact other road accidents which occur due to human error and bad road behaviour.
“Treating drink driving as culpable homicide will be a move in the right direction. There are so many cab services, one can hire a driver—there is absolutely no reason for anyone to be drinking and driving. This was the demand of the day. In fact, this will set a precedent and possibly reduce accidents caused by other causes such as texting and driving,” he says
Whether these recommendations will be included in the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill now depends on the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways which will now redraft the bill before taking it to the Cabinet for approval.