Kerala To Launch A New Law To Protect ‘Good Samaritans’, People Who Help Accident Victims
New Delhi: It was 10 am in the morning, when 40-year-old Mahesh Shah was hit by a speeding truck in Kerala. He was bleeding badly and was unconscious. Over the next few hours, nearly 100 cars, 80 three-wheelers, 181 bikers and 30 pedestrians crossed him, some paused to look, while some took photos, but, no one came forward to help him. Mahesh battled for his life for two hours, but help never arrived in time. Mahesh is not an isolated case, there many in Kerala who have suffered the same faith. Reason why people hesitate to help the accident victims is mainly fear of police harassment, detention at hospitals, and prolonged legal formalities.
In a bid to change the situation, the Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced in the state assembly that the government is about to formulate a new law that will help protect people who lend a helping hand to road accident victims. He said,
It is mostly fear of litigation and legal consequences that often prevent people from helping accident victims. Strict instructions have been given to police asking them to ensure that those helping the victims are not put to any difficulty.
He further added that the same instruction has been passed to investigators.
Investigators should not list them as under the list of people need to be examined, if they are not eye-witnesses to the accident.
The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways had issued the Good Samaritan Guidelines way back in 2015. In March 2016, the Supreme Court passed these guidelines in the form of law for the entire country. The law states, anyone who comes forward to help out a road accident victim he/she would not face any legal complications. He or she can also choose to file a police complaint without letting their identity be known. More importantly, hospitals would be allowed to treat an accident victim even before an FIR was lodged or the victim’s family identified.
Unfortunately, till date only Karnataka has taken a step forward by making it a state law. But, the irony is that it is the same state where last year a teen accident made headlines – 18-year old Anwar Ali died on the road waiting for help to arrive after he was hit by a state-run bus.
Keeping the guidelines in mind, the Kerala government will consider framing necessary laws to protect those who engage in life saving activities and trauma care during the time of accidents and check that no difficulties are caused to them from the side of authorities, added Pinarayi Vijayan.
Last year, the Kerala government initiated various measures catering to the road accident victims like arrangements to provide free treatment to accident victims during the first 48 hours in both public and private hospitals in the state. It also announced its plan to set-up an e-network of ambulances to ensure immediate trauma care for road accident victims. The state police is also setting up with a group of voluntary activists under the title SOFT (Save Our Fellow Travellers) to provide immediate medical assistance for accident victims.
According to Kerala Police web portal, in the year 2017 (upto November), there were more than 35 thousands accidents that took place in the state. Out of which more than 3 thousand people lost their lives and 39 thousand people were injured.
In the year 2015, deaths caused due to road accidents reached an all-time high since 2001 with 4287 losing their lives on roads.