Car Crash and Provisions in Indian Penal Code for Accidents

With motor vehicle usage in India increasing over the last several years, road accidents have increased steeply. Road injuries and fatalities in a car crash have become a major public issue because they are the leading cause of mortality and permanent disability.

This article provides a basic overview of accidents due to car crashes and the provisions laid by Indian Penal Code (IPC) and discusses inadequacies in the punishing conditions of the parts of the act and, finally, underlines the critical need for change and provides solutions.

Introduction

India has a poor track record when it comes to traffic accidents. India has the dubious distinction of ranking first in terms of the number of ‘road accidents’ and even more in car crashes.

Rash drivers appear to be unconcerned. They consider themselves to be the ‘monarch of all they examine’. Heavy drinking leads to reckless driving and endangers other people. It inculcates a sense of ‘not being safe’ among the impoverished people.

Because of undisciplined driving, pedestrians are unsure, and civilised people crossing the street or casually walking by worry regularly. Furthermore, the arrogant attitude of drivers considering themselves above the law is highly concerning.

Understanding the term ‘accident’

An accident is an undesirable occurrence that occurs unexpectedly and at once, usually resulting in damage or harm.

In Section 80 of the IPC, an accident is a general exemption for the first time. Aside from any purpose of crime, the Section states that nothing constitutes an offence if it gets accomplished through accident or misfortune. It further states that the legitimate act must be conducted lawfully by a lawful capability with reasonable care and attention.

The term ‘accident’ has a broad definition under the IPC. An accident is defined as any act performed carelessly and encompasses road accidents, which is the subject of this article.

Road accidents

India tops the list of countries with the highest number of road accidents. Accidents on the road are an unavoidable part of life. At least one traffic accident is reported daily. Depending on the severity of the event, the number of victims and damage may be alarming. Road accidents claim many lives and cause considerable property damage.

Accidental Death and Suicides in India’, a report about the year 2019 by NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau), revealed that a total of 4,49,002 incidents of road accidents were reported in 2019.

Despite a 3.8% decrease in the number of traffic accidents, a 1.3% increase is observed in fatalities. Death and injury caused by a car crash are included in the reported number of accidents, which were 1,51,113 and 4,51,361, respectively.

The government amended this law to make it more rigorous. However, the problem is persistent. Injuries and fatalities due to accidents are not decreasing because of the lack of a strong punishment regime.

Nature of road accidents – are they civil or criminal?

All misdemeanours are often torts. Accidents due to a crash are typically considered civil wrongs. They infringe on an individual’s right to life, and the victim is entitled to monetary compensation for such injustice. They may also be criminal in character. For example, accidents pose a risk to society and are penalised by the state.

In some instances, such as hit-and-run accidents, reckless driving, driving under the influence (DUI), and driving while drunk, the same can be both a tort and a criminal (DWI). Such offences are punishable under the IPC 1860.

The definition of offence changes when an act falls within both categories since the same defences cannot be held. The offender may be ordered to pay damages and compensation to the aggrieved person and be sentenced to prison, fines, or both.

Provisions in the IPC for accidents

As noted, the first reference of an accident in the IPC is in the form of a general exception in Section 80 of the code, which can lead to an escape from criminal penalty and culpability if proven entirely in court. It does not provide a proper definition for the term. Certain parts of the IPC include provisions for punishing acts of carelessness and reckless driving.

Section 279

Section 279 of IPC mentions rash driving or riding in a public way. It lays that: ‘Whoever drives any vehicle, or rides, on any public way in a manner so rash or negligent as to endanger human life, or to be likely to cause hurt or injury to any other person, shall be punished with im­prisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both’.

As previously noted, the first reference of an accident in the IPC is in the form of a general exception in Section 80 of the code, which can lead to an escape from criminal penalty and culpability if proven entirely in court. It does not provide a definition for the term. Certain parts of the IPC include provisions for punishing acts of carelessness and reckless driving.

This section discusses driving while threatening human life or creating harm. For example, suppose A, a college student, rides his car recklessly, leading to the car crash, and a schoolgirl, B, collides and falls. If B falls and has a knee injury, A is considered to have caused harm and is responsible under Section 279.

In another case, if the same youngster A does not strike anybody but is caught driving recklessly on the streets, he will only be responsible under Section 279, and the sentence will be the same.

As a result, the same provision for punishment is applicable regardless of whether the harm is inflicted or anticipated to be caused. Furthermore, the offence is bailable, cognisable, and non-compoundable, which indicates that A can pay the penalty, receive bail, and repeat the actions, and the cycle can continue.

Section 337

Section 337 under the IPC provides for causing hurt by an act that endangers life or personal security.

The section says, ‘Whoever causes hurt to any person by doing any act so rashly or negligently as to endanger human life or the personal safety of others, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees, or with both’.

This section discusses risking human life and the personal safety of others by acting carelessly or recklessly. Because the Section does not define the nature of the conduct, it encompasses a broad scope of the act, which can include driving on the road.

Using the same youngster A as an example, assume he is driving recklessly and passes by an elderly guy who has a heart ailment. Because of the abrupt passing of a fast car, the elderly guy has a heart attack. Here, A’s actions jeopardised the older man”s life, so A is responsible under Section 337.

The provision is bailable, cognisable, and compoundable with the court”s approval by the person who gets harmed.

Section 338

This Section provides the provision on causing grievous hurt by an act that endangers the life or personal security.

The section says, ‘Whoever causes grievous hurt to any person by doing any act so rashly or negligently as to endanger human life or the personal safety of others, shall be punished with impris­onment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both’.

This Section discusses risking human life and the personal safety of others by acting carelessly or rashly in such a way that causes great harm. The nature of the act is not defined, thus driving is permissible.

Suppose a car driver carelessly takes a wrong turn, leading to a car crash and striking a rickshaw puller, and the rickshaw puller has very severe wounds on his body. In such a case, the driver inflicted grievous harm and is responsible under Section 338.

Using the same scenario, if the rickshaw driver loses his/her vision due to the collision, the truck driver will be held responsible under Section 338.

The section is classified as bailable, cognisable, and compoundable by the person causing the harm. It means that if the accused person causes grievous curable or even incurable harm, the same provision for punishment applies.

Section 304A

This section provides for the provisions for death by negligence. The section states, ‘Whoever causes the death of any person by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both’.

According to the NCRB’s report on accidental deaths, the number of accidental deaths increased by a factor of 1.3. Furthermore, because the act was an ‘accident’, the wrongdoer does not face as severe a punishment as he should. Most accidents are ‘disguised murders’.

Most of the time, death is proven to be the result of the driver’s negligence, but murder in this manner is open to manipulation. Furthermore, if the death was indeed the result of negligence, the penalty must be much higher. Crimes under Section 304A are bailable, cognisable, and non-compoundable.

Damage assessment

The extent of harm should be considered when determining compensation. In a car crash, damages of two types:

Pecuniary damages

Expenses incurred for medical care, transportation, lost income up to the trial date, and future loss of earnings by the claimant are all examples of pecuniary damages.

Non-pecuniary harm

This sort of damage is also known as ‘generic or special damage’.

Such comprises bodily pain, suffering, shocks, future sufferings, and loss of fundamental necessities of existence.

Types of claims in a car crash

Compensation claims are of the following types:

No-Fault Liability

Section 140 of the act addresses this liability. In this scenario, the claimant need not show the other party’s culpability because there is no shared liability. However, this obligation arises if the individual making a claim is permanently handicapped or if he dies. In the event of death, the claimant is entitled to Rs 50,000. In the case of permanent disability, Rs 25,000

The act defines permanent disability as follows:

  • Persistent reduction of muscular strength in any member or joint
  • Permanent facial or head deformity
  • Permanent loss of sight in either eye, ear, or any limb, or joint

Hit and run

The Act”s Section 161 addresses claims arising from hit-and-run incidents. In such circumstances, the accused hits the victim with his car and chooses to flee rather than assist him.

According to Section 161(3), if a person is harmed, he is entitled to Rs 12,500, and if he dies, his legal representatives are entitled to Rs 25,000.

Structured formula basis

In 1994, the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988 was revised. This change added a new section to the Act, Section 163 A. Under this clause, a claimant is not required to show the driver’s culpability.

The owner {as defined in Section 2(30) of the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988} or the insurance, must reimburse the claimant. But only after discovering the identity of the accused. It”s essential to meet an additional criterion before the claimant may make a complaint under Section 140 or Section 163 A. If his complaint has already received compensation under Provision 140, he will only be entitled to the balance amount.

Analysis of crashes in India

India ranks first in the world when it comes to traffic deaths and car crashes. Regardless of legislation; the number of accidents continues to rise at an alarming rate. As a result, traffic injuries and fatalities have arisen as a significant public issue because they are one of the leading causes of mortality and permanent disability in our country.

People rampantly disregard the law. Therefore, legislators should investigate, scrutinise, assess, and re-examine the sentencing policy under the provisions of the IPC dealing with accidents to stop the growing number of deaths and make Indian roads safer for the public.

Road traffic accidents are the eighth biggest cause of mortality in India. As per the 2019 annual accident data, 65% of the 154,732 persons who died in road crashes in 2019 were between the ages 18 and 45.

Children under the age of 14 cause around 2.65% of all fatalities.

According to the SaveLIFE Foundation’s analysis, Uttar Pradesh had the greatest number of road collisions deaths among the states, with 23,285 deaths (15% of total deaths in 2019), followed by Maharashtra with 14608 fatalities (9.4%), and Madhya Pradesh with 11856 deaths (7.7%).

Furthermore, road accidents (67,228 incidents) accounted for 97.3% of total traffic accidents in 53 megacities in 2019.

Chennai accounted for 10.2% of all road accidents reported in 53 megacities (6,871 out of 67,228 incidents), followed by Delhi (8.0% or 5,349 cases).

Another concerning trend that emerged in the road accidents trends in India in the 2019 study was the use of national highways, which accounted for 2.03% of the country’s overall road network. According to the study, national highways accounted for a disproportionate amount of deaths last year, accounting for 35.7% of all fatalities. This trend is not new because India’s national roads have long been a source of concern, accounting for a disproportionate part of the country’s total number of road accident fatalities.

Furthermore, state highways, which account for 3.01% of India’s road length, accounted for 24.8% of road accident deaths, with other roads accounting for the remaining 39%.

Consider the following figure, which should be a concern for everyone: overspeeding caused 67.3% of total road accident deaths in India last year, followed by driving on the wrong side of the road and drunk driving, which accounted for 6% and 3.5% of accident deaths, respectively.

Alarmingly, car crashes, road accidents, fatalities, and individuals killed due to over-speeding, drunk driving, and driving on the wrong side all increased compared with those in 2018. People believed the Motor Vehicle Act 2019 was ‘excessive’. The data suggests the act is neither excessive nor sufficiently robust in its enforcement. At least not yet.

Conclusion

Currently, India ranks first in the world in terms of traffic deaths due to severe car crash issues. Regardless of legislation; the number of accidents continues to rise at an alarming rate. Therefore, traffic injuries and fatalities have arisen as a significant public issue because they are one of the leading causes of mortality and permanent disability in our country. People blatantly violate rules and no longer fear the law.

We must emphasise that the legislators should analyse, scrutinise, review, and re-examine the sentencing policy under the sections of the IPC concerned with accidents.

FAQs

What is the punishment for accidents in India?

Section 337 of the IPC states that ‘whoever causes hurt to any person by doing any act so rashly or negligently as to endanger human life, or the personal safety of others, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with a fine which may extend to five hundred rupees, or with both’.

Section 388 of the IPC allows for punishment with either imprisonment for two years or a fine of 1000 rupees, or both, in situations of grievous bodily harm.

Is a car accident a civil or criminal case in India?

Cases pertaining to car accidents are termed as civil cases in India.

Non-criminal disputes, such as contract disputes, property disputes, divorce, and personal injury, are handled by these courts. In a car accident case, the victim seeks monetary compensation from the negligent driver's insurance company.

What is the purpose of the Motor Vehicles Act ?

Proper registration of commercial and personal vehicles in the country

Maintain road safety standards.

Proper pollution control measures.

Regulate the standard for the transportation of harmful substances.

What remedies opted by the victim lies under the revised Motor Vehicle Act?

Due to the differences in the development and emergence of new grave offences, the fines were proposed to increase to the point where a person breaking the law would make a person think twice. The provisions in the MV Act regarding penalties were so inadequate that people hardly gave the laws any consideration before committing a hazard.

As a result, in 2015, the Ministry of Road, Transport, and Highways introduced a new Motor Vehicle Bill, which recommended harsher penalties for violators and a significant increase in fines.

Categories:
Accidents & Injuries