India’s Strict Hit-and-Run Punishment Policy
The recent incident in New Delhi involving a woman being dragged to death by a hit-and-run driver has raised concerns about the increasing rate of hit-and-run cases in India. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), hit-and-run incidents contributed to 59 percent of all fatal accidents on national highways in 2021, an increase from 50 percent in 2020. The rise of hit-and-run cases has prompted the Indian government to bring significant changes to the legislation through Section 161 of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019, with regard to compensation to the victims.
This article provides comprehensive information on hit-and-run cases in India, the punishment mentioned under Indian laws, and relief available to the victims.
Indian Laws Governing Hit-and-Run Cases
The Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 govern hit-and-run cases in India. The IPC is a criminal law that provides punishment for hit-and-run cases and refers to provisions for reckless and irresponsible driving that causes harm or hampers the safety of the public. The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 governs all aspects of road transport vehicles, including hit-and-run cases, and awards compensation to the victims.
Punishment for Hit-and-Run Cases Under Indian Law
The IPC provides punishment for hit-and-run cases. The majority of these cases are caused by the negligent and irresponsible behaviour of drivers of motor vehicles. The main causes of these cases are claimed to be overspeeding and intoxication.
Section 279 IPC
Section 279 of the IPC addresses rash and negligent driving. Any person driving a vehicle in a public place in a rash and negligent way causing or likely to cause injury or endanger the life of any person will be liable under Section 279.
To file a case under Section 279, the victim has to prove that he has suffered bodily injuries or created a life-threatening situation for the victim due to rash or negligent driving. To constitute an offence under Section 279 of the IPC, the driving must be either rash or negligent.
The punishment for the commission of a crime under Section 279 of the IPC is imprisonment for a term of one year or a fine, which may extend up to 1000 rupees, or both. The punishment and fine may differ from case to case based on the facts and circumstances of the case. The offences under Section 279 are bailable, cognizable, and non-compoundable in nature.
Section 337 IPC
Section 337 of the IPC deals with the hurt caused by a rash or negligent act that endangers the life or personal safety of people. For the commission of an offence under Section 337 of IPC, the person is punishable with imprisonment for a term that may extend up to six months or is liable with a fine of five hundred rupees or both. The offence punishable under Section 337 is bailable, cognizable, and compoundable in nature.
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Case laws on Sections 279 and 337 IPC
In the case of Ravi Kapur v. State of Rajasthan (2012), the Supreme Court held that the rash or negligent driving of a vehicle must be examined in light of the facts and circumstances of the case. The person who drives the vehicle will be held liable for the act as well as a result. The court further said that the speed of the vehicle is always not the factor to determine whether the person is driving it in a rash or negligent manner or not.
In the case of State v. Balkishan (2013), the Delhi District Court resolved the ambiguity regarding Sections 279 and 337 of the IPC. The Court held that under Section 279, rash or negligent driving is likely to cause injury, but Section 337 is invoked when the act already results in the injury of the victim. Section 279 explicitly covers the rashness or negligence of driving. The offence under Section 279 can even be constituted if there is evidence of rash or negligent driving, while Section 337 of IPC applies to any rash or negligent act which jeopardises the safety of people.
In Md Hiran Mia v. State of Tripura (2009), the Court said that the punishment under Section 279 is graver than the punishment under Section 337 of IPC and that Court declared that if a person commits both the offence under Section 279 and 337, the offender should be punished under Section 279 of IPC.
Relief Available to the Victims of Hit-and-Run Cases Under Indian Law
The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 governs compensation to the victims of hit-and-run cases. The compensation is given to cover all medical expenses and other losses that occurred as a result of the accident. Under the act, a hit-and-run victim can claim compensation from the fund maintained by the state government.
The state governments may also establish a scheme for compensation to the victims of hit-and-run cases. The scheme may include medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, loss of wages, and other expenses incurred due to the accident.
In conclusion, hit-and-run cases are a growing concern in India, and the legislation has brought in significant changes to provide relief to the victims. Indian law provides punishment for hit-and-run cases under Sections 279 and 337 of the IPC. The punishments vary according to the facts and circumstances of the case. The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 governs compensation to the victims of hit-and-run cases. It provides the victims with relief to cover all medical expenses and other losses that occurred as a result of the accident.