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People don’t trust the law when it comes to punishing rash drivers

January 28, 2007

On Saturday morning in Mumbai a traffic policeman stopped a Maruti car for rash driving. A simple, routine matter tucked away in the inside pages of the Mumbai Mirror? Well, almost. The pictures below tell a story.

Watch what happened…

Cops pull up a driver of a Maruti car in Mumbai for ‘rash driving.’

In a matter of mintues a crowd has collected and starts to beat him up. Cops quickly bundle the errant driver into a car and take him away.

Scary huh?

Well, these kind of incidents are not unknown. If the crowd manages to catch a rash driver (and God save him if he has hurt anybody) they will beat him up. Public fury is easily aroused…because they know only too well that the driver can easily pay a hundred rupee note and get away with breaking any traffic rule. Yes, even the famed Mumbai cops, supposedly more honest than those in some other states, stoop to this. Whether you are talking on a cell-phone, not wearing your seat-belt or break a traffic light…you can get away with it if you have that hundred rupee note handy.
And if you kill someone? Not to worry. Why, even our Supreme court feels sorry for such people. Look at what the court did in the ex-cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu’s road rage case. The court stayed his conviction even though everyone knows that some 18 years ago in 1988 (yes, that is how long it has taken for this case to reach this stage) Sidhu was responsible for the death 65-year-old Gurnam Singh in a road rage case. Sidhu had resigned from the Lok Sabha after the Punjab and Haryana High Courts convicted him on December 1 last year and gave him a suspended three-year sentence. And now that the Supreme court has freed him from the conviction as well, guess what our ex-cricketer is planning to do? Go back to being a politician ofcourse – something he was after retiring from cricket and before his conviction.
Sidhu is not alone in escaping the clutches of the law. Well publicised and far more horrific cases have been the Sanjeev Nanda case (this brat of a rich businessman is alleged to have run over and killed six people with his BMW in the early hours of the morning in New Delhi in 1999) and the Salman Khan case. Now it it looks like Khan, being a popular and rich film actor will get away as well, even though he is alleged to have run over five people while driving back home late at night.

Its said that matters deteriorate to an intense degree before they start to improve. Well, I think we have reached rock bottom where our legal system is concerned. The ordinary man on the street has reached boiling point. They have started attacking drivers even when the place is teeming with cops.

13th April 2007. Update on our conviction rates (information from TOI) :
In India we have one of the highest accident rates but one of the lowest conviction rates. Just take Maharashtra. In 2005 214 criminal cases were lodged for causing death by negligence by driving, but the conviction rate was only 9 per cent. The problem in India is that it takes several years for the case to come to court and in the meantime either the witnesses disappear or they turn hostile. It is easy for the convicted (who are out on bail) to bribe witnesses. And in any case, if a person is caught for drunken driving,he does not have much to fear as punishment is light. Under the Motor Vehicles Act you get a six month prision sentence or a fine of Rs 2000/-. hardly anyone ever goes to prison as Rs 2000/- is a paltry sum. However if the police book the offender under Section 304-A of the Indian Penal Code which provides for a heavier fine or a jail term of 2 years then it can get a little harder, but only a little. Even in this case the court does not usually give the prison term and it is prison which is the real deterrent. There is no forensic or scientific investigation to prove guilt anyway and often the offender walks free, without even a fine…ready to drink and drive again.

Some more cases where justice has not been done:
The Puru Rajkumar case. In 1993, Puru Rajkumar, the son of actor Raj Kumar, mowed down several pavement dwellers, killing three and crippling one. The magistrate KH Holambe imposed a fine of Rs 30.000 and let Puru go. A carpenter who lost his limbs and livelihood recieved Rs 500/- as compensation. The sentence was not challenged by the government, which means they thought this was satisfactory punishment! Unless ofcourse they were bribed.

Oman based psychologist Asma Sudhit Mada (33) was arrested by the Mahim police for running over and killing two men sleeping on the pavement on Cadell road in July 2006. Mada is out on bail today and trial is pending in court.

A tempo driver Mohammed Chowdhary in a milk van ran over and killed three migrants from Karnataka including an 8 year old girl as they were sitting outside their hut. Accused is out on bail and trial is pending in court.

Alistair Case: The latest news is that only one out of 18 witnesses admit to seeing Alistair at the wheel. Therefore the case against him has been weakened.

Pictures courtesy Mumbai Mirror.
Picture of Sidhu from cricinfo

Related Reading: Road accidents are caused by human error
My road rage experience
Why people lash out at strangers

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 30, 2007 2:03 pm

    Very true…we have stooped to previousy unthinkable depths. And we have only ourselves to blame.

    Ppl committing “harmless” violations (not wearing a helmet, triple riding etc) think its their constitutional right to pay a bribe and escape. Look where such harmless acts of corruption have led – the rich brats get away even killing innocent people by the dozens. Shame on the judiciary which allows this to happen.

  2. Hari permalink
    July 6, 2009 1:42 am

    What happens if the driver of the larger vehicle is innocent and the driver of the smaller vehicle involved in the accident is killed? I’ve been always hearing that the law is lenient towards the driver of the smaller vehicle, even though the driver might be the one actually carrying out the act of negligent and rash driving – any idea how the Indian law treats such scenarios?

    Hari, as far as I know the law goes by the law, who is at fault. When it comes to sympathising with the smaller vehicle, that is what crowds and mobs do so there is always the danger of that. However as judges are human beings too they do feel some amount of sympathy for say a cyclist or a two wheeler but if he has done something like go on the wrong side of the road and so on, the law will not take his side. – Nita

    • sivaraj k permalink
      September 2, 2011 7:16 am

      I have been working in a major transport corporation and interacting with the police on accident matters involving my corporation drivers.AS far as i know the police and the judicial are sympathizing with the smaller vehicle even if they are drunk. If the rider of the smaller vehicle is dead even the doctors are not mentioning the fact in their Accident Report.

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