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Controversies Surrounding India’s New Hit-and-Run Law

  • Published
    9th Jan, 2024
Context

Protests and debates surrounding Section 106 (2) of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023, initiated by transporters and commercial drivers. Stringent measures in hit-and-run cases are necessary, but the protestors argue that the new law is flawed and requires reconsideration.

Background
  • Transporters and commercial drivers, particularly from Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, and Punjab, have voiced their opposition to Section 106 (2) of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023.
  • This provision imposes severe penalties, including up to 10 years in jail and a fine, for fleeing an accident scene without reporting it to the authorities.
  • The protests highlight concerns about unintentional accidents, challenging working conditions, and potential misuse of the law.
  • The protests emphasize the need for a balanced approach in the legislation concerning hit-and-run incidents.
  • While acknowledging the importance of strict actions in such cases, the transporters argue that the current law lacks consideration for the practical challenges they face, such as long driving hours, difficult roads, and unforeseeable factors contributing to accidents.
Key Highlights:

Protests and Impact: Widespread protests among transporters, particularly truck drivers, have impacted multiple states, leading to roadblocks, strikes, and disruptions.

Demands of Protestors:Transporters demand the withdrawal or amendment of Section 106 (2), citing concerns about excessive penalties for unintentional accidents and the failure of the law to consider the challenging working conditions faced by drivers.

Road Accidents in India:

  • The protests occur against the backdrop of alarming statistics related to road accidents in India. In 2022, the country witnessed over 1.68 lakh road crash fatalities, averaging 462 deaths daily.
  • Despite a global decrease, India experienced a 12% increase in road accidents and a 9.4% rise in fatalities.
  • The economic loss due to road crashes amounts to 5-7% of India's GDP annually.

Principle Underlying the Law:

  • Section 106 (2) aims to enforce moral responsibility on offenders involved in hit-and-run incidents.
  • The law obligates the offender to report the incident to the authorities, emphasizing the need for accountability and adherence to legal duties.

Justification for Stringency:

  • The National Crime Records Bureau recorded 47,806 hit-and-run incidents in 2022, resulting in 50,815 deaths.
  • The stringent punishment aims to deter drivers from engaging in rash and negligent driving that can lead to fatal accidents.

Contested Provisions and Ambiguities: Protestors contest the imprisonment of up to 10 years and a fine of ?7 lakh mentioned in Section 106.

The Way Forward:

  • Addressing the concerns raised by the protestors requires a careful reassessment of Section 106 (2). Revisiting and reconciling the clauses to ensure fair treatment of truck drivers and other vehicle operators.
  • A graded liability system based on the nature of accidents and contributing factors could provide a more nuanced approach.
  • Additionally, clarity on the applicability of Section 106 (2) in cases of grievous injuries versus fatalities is essential for a more just implementation of the law.
  • Road accidents in India remain a significant public health concern.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that India has one of the highest road traffic death rates globally.
  • Factors contributing to road accidents include inadequate road infrastructure, non-compliance with traffic rules, inadequate law enforcement, and the lack of awareness about road safety.
  • Statistics from the WHO reveal that road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among individuals aged 5-29 years in India.
  • Vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists, are disproportionately affected.
  • Efforts to reduce road accidents should involve a holistic approach, including improved road design, stricter enforcement of traffic laws, public awareness campaigns, and the incorporation of advanced safety features in vehicles.
  • Education and awareness programs aimed at fostering a culture of road safety are crucial for reducing accidents and saving lives.
  • Additionally, leveraging technology for better traffic management, surveillance, and emergency response can contribute to creating safer road environments.
  • Addressing the concerns of transporters and improving road safety in India require collaborative efforts from policymakers, law enforcement agencies, and the public.
  • A comprehensive strategy that combines legal measures, infrastructure development, and awareness campaigns is essential for achieving significant and sustainable reductions in road accidents and fatalities.
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