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Traffic offenders can be tried under both IPC & MV Act: SC ‘New Law Doesn’t Have Provision To Deal With Offences Causing Death’

October 09, 2019 06:09 AM


Traffic offenders can be tried under both IPC & MV Act: SC
‘New Law Doesn’t Have Provision To Deal With Offences Causing Death’

New Delhi:

The Supreme Court has held that those violating traffic rules and causing accidents by rash and negligent driving could be tried and punished separately under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), besides Motor Vehicles Act.

Setting aside a Gauhati HC ruling that provisions of IPC cannot be invoked against traffic rule violators and they could be punished only under MV Act, a bench of Justices Indu Malhotra and Sanjiv Khanna said ingredients of offences under both statutes are different and an offender can be tried and punished independently under them.

It said the principle that the MV Act, being special law, should prevail over the general law has no application in cases of prosecution of offenders in road accidents under both the IPC and the MV Act.

The bench said the MV Act is a beneficial legislation whose primary objective is to provide a statutory scheme for compensation to victims of accidents, while the IPC is punitive and deterrent in nature whose objective is to punish offenders.

The court said keeping IPC out of traffic rule violation cases would lead to anomalous situation as the accused could be let off lightly since offences under the MV Act are compoundable in nature and no proceedings would be initiated if the accused pleads guilty and deposits the fine imposed. It also said there is no provision under the MV Act to deal separately with offences causing death or grievous hurt.

“If the IPC gives way to the MV Act and the provisions of CrPC succumb to provisions of the MV Act as held by the HC, even cases of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and causing death or grievous hurt or simple hurt by rash and negligent driving would become compoundable. Such an interpretation would have the consequence of letting an offender get away with a fine by pleading guilty, without having to face any prosecution for the offence committed,” the bench said.

“This court has time and again emphasised on the need to strictly punish offenders responsible for causing motor vehicle accidents. With rapidly increasing motorisation, India is facing an increasing burden of road traffic injuries and fatalities. The financial loss, emotional and social trauma caused to a family on losing a bread-winner, or any other member of the family, or incapacitation of the victim cannot be quantified,” it said.

It said Sections 279, 304 Part II, 304A, 337 and 338 of the IPC have been specifically framed to deal with offences like rash and negligent driving resulting in death, or hurt, or grievous hurt and an accused could be prosecuted under both the laws simultaneously.

“The principle of proportionality between crime and punishment has to be borne in mind. The principle of just punishment is the bedrock of sentencing in respect of a criminal offence. The maximum imprisonment for a first time offence under Chapter XIII of the MV Act, is up to only six months; whereas the maximum imprisonment for a first time offence under the IPC in relation to road traffic offences can go up to 10 years under Section 304 Part II. The sentence imposed by the courts should be commensurate with the seriousness of the offence, and should have a deterring effect on wrong-doers. The punishment of offenders of motor vehicle accidents under IPC is stricter and proportionate to the offence committed, as compared with MV Act,” the bench said.

“We thus hold that a prosecution, if otherwise maintainable, would lie both under the IPC and MV Act, since both the statutes operate with full vigour, in their own independent spheres. Even assuming that some of the provisions of the MV Act and the IPC are overlapping, it cannot be said that the offences under both the statutes are incompatible,” it said

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