We are living in an age of speed, whether it’s a career, job, life or even your motor vehicle everywhere it is the pace that matters and in such race of becoming ace and without having the control on our steerings, we just forget about the consequences and impact we are living behind. In India, more than thousands of cases of hit and run are reported every year.
Hit and Run cases refer to the cases of a road accident where the drivers while driving inflicts damage to any person’s life, health or property as a result of his rash and negligent driving and then fails to register that vehicle with which the accident is caused and their driving license to the concerned legal authorities. Speaking in layman term, Hit and Run means hitting a person or property as a consequence of the rash and negligent driving and then fleeing. Under such a scenario it becomes very difficult to catch and punish the culprits due to the lack of evidence and eyewitnesses.
These are typically the cases “accidents caused by careless driving”; where there is Mens Rea to kill any person directly or to commit any act that would result in the death of human beings is missing rather an act is committed because of the rash driving of the driver.
In the year 2018, nearly 467044 road accidents were reported and the majority of them were caused due to rash and negligent driving. For an act of rash and negligent driving, the factors of knowledge and intention of the accused should not be there. Principle of Res Ipsa Loquitur i.e, things speak for itself.
The biggest issue with the cases of Hit and Run is that there is the absence of any direct evidence against the culprit at the crime scene which makes it extremely difficult for the Police officers to pursue the investigation and find the culprit who has mostly fled away and rarely caught.
The witnesses on whom the investigation relies are also reluctant to help as they do not wish to be entangled in any sort of legal framework; hence in such cases, the investigation requires very precise and careful monitoring of the crime scene.
In 2013, the Apex court of India looking into the reluctant attitude of the witnesses of the road accident either for helping the victims (who could have survived if taken to hospitals on time) or helping the Police so to result in a faster investigation, ordered the Central Government to make laws for the protection of “Good Samaritans”. Although such laws are made only on paper there are some states like Karnataka where these laws have been implemented and hold some importance.
According to the statistics, in 2015 nearly five lakh road accidents happened in India in which more than 20000 people lost their lives in Hit and Run cases alone. According to the data of Ministry of Road Transport, it is shocking to note that In India hit-and-run cases accounted for 11.4% of all the road accidents in 2015 which was an increase from 10.9% in 2014 but more shocking is that according to a study Impediments to Bystander Care in India conducted by SaveLIFE Foundation, advocacy working for road safety, and TNS India, a global marketing research company, in July 2013 it was found that 80% of road accident victims do not receive any medical care within the first or golden hour after the accident and 74% of respondents expressed unwillingness to assist victims of road accidents.
The cases of Hit and Run, in India, are not specifically punishable under the Indian Penal Code (IPC); yet when the question of Hit and Run cases arises then Sections 279, 304A, and 338 comes into the picture.
Section 279:provides for the definition and punishment of Rash Driving.
It states that whoever drives any vehicle on any public place is such rash or negligent manner so it causes endanger to human life, or likely to cause hurt or injury to any other person then he shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend 6 months or fine extending to one thousand rupees or both.
Section 304A:provides for the punishment for causing death by negligence.
It is a specific provision inserted under IPC, 1860 and this section is directly applicable to Hit and Run cases which results in the death of victims. It states that whoever causes the death of any person by any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide, shall be punished with imprisonment extending to 2 years or fine or both.
Section 338:provides for the punishment when the victim hasn’t died but is grievously injured.
It states that whoever causes grievous hurt to any person by doing any rash or negligent act, then shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to 2 years or fine or both
Motor Vehicle Act 1988
This act is applicable in the cases of Hit and Run too; the sections that deal with it are Section 161, 134(a) and 134(b)
Section 161: provides for the compensation to the victims of the hit and run which is 25,000 in the case of death and 12,500 in case of grievous hurt.
It also defines “Hit and Run” as “ an accident by a motor vehicle whose identity cannot be ascertained despite reasonable efforts”.
Section 134(a): requires the driver who has caused an accident to secure medical attention to the injured person immediately.
Section 134(b): requires the driver to give the information relevant to that accident to the Police officer as soon as possible else the driver will be punished.
In the case of State of Rajasthan v. Hari Singh, it was held by the court that only driving at a faster rate will not hold anyone liable under section 304A IPC, it must be proved that the collision was either or mainly due to the fault o the accused.
In the case of Jagdish Chander v. State, the act of accused crashing the lady without looking into the side mirror of the scooter and causing minor injuries to her by losing control was covered under the plethora of rash and negligent act.
Salman Khan: Hit & Run Case
Hit and Run cases have come to the knowledge of most of the Indians after the infamous Salman Khan case in 2002. He was accused of driving his car onto the Footpath into a group of homeless people.
Salman Khan, as we all know is a well renowned Bollywood actor and a youth idol for many fellow Indians but the Hit and Run became a hot topic of discussion when he got associated with its controversy.
On the night of September 28th, 2002, the white Toyota Land Cruiser belonging to Salman Khan was found to be crashed into the pavement near American Express Bakery at Hill Road, Bandra, Mumbai which resulted in killing on the person on sight and causing fatal injuries to other four.
It was the case of Drinking and Driving; the blood samples taken showed that he drank more than the permissible limit and lost control over his driving which led to the death and injury of innocent lives.
He was arrested and charged with the various provisions under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, and Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949. These provisions were –
- Section 304A, 279, 134, 337, 338 and 427 under Indian Penal Code.
This section talks about:
- Section 304A- it deals with rash and negligent driving and prescribes punishment for up to 2 years.
- Section 279 – provides the punishment for rash driving.
- Section 134- provides the punishment for abetment of assault.
- Section 337 and 338 – provides punishment for causing grievous hurt by endangering life or liberty or personal safety of any person
- Section 427 – deals with mischief.
- Motor vehicle Act – under driving without a license.
- Bombay Prohibition Act – for driving after liquor consumption.
Initially, the case of Salman Khan was filed under the section of rash and negligent driving i.e. Section 304A, IPC but later in 2003 it was converted to Section 304 Part II, IPC which deals with the “Culpable Homicide not amounting to murder”.
The key witness of the case was Ravindra Patel, who was also the bodyguard of the actor who claimed that it was Salman Khan who was in the driving seat but later he dies of TB and Salman Khan denied all the claims stating that the left door of the car was jammed so he has to get out of the driver’s seat.
Many key points were ignored or taken for granted in the case of Salman Khan that would have generated a different output.
- There was a huge contradiction between the Chemical Analysis Report which stated that the actor was drunk at the time of the accident and the statement of Salman Khan who denied from being instead even though he went to JW Marriott Hotel, Juhu and the waiter of the bar gave the statement that the actor ordered rum which was rebutted by the actor as water.
- The non-examination of the star singer Kalaam Khan, who was an important piece of evidence so to throw light on the fact “who was driving the car”.
- The perjury application brought by the lawyers of Salman Khan claiming that the post morterm of the deceased was wrong, delaying the case for 3 years and the blunder of the Mumbai Police claiming that they lost the case dairy of the particular case along with 55 to 66 other important documents.
- The biggest twist and turn of the case was that after 13 years the Salman Khan claiming that he was not the one on the driving seat instead his driver Ashok Singh was the one who was driving the car that day which was a lie and cooked up story.
Session Court: Considering all the above-mentioned points, the session court of the Mumbai announced “ five years of rigorous” punishment to the actor on which he got bail just after 2 days of the judgment by the High Court.
High Court: By Justice Joshi
The most awaited judgment came by the High Court of Bombay on 10th December 2015, where after 13 years from that manslaughter accident the High court acquitted Salman Khan of the charges of Hit and Run cases that have been framed against him. The case was a relief for many and despair and disheartening for thousands who put their faith and hope on the Judicial System of the country.
The court completely disregarded the evidence given by the Ravindra Patil and concluded that the prosecution failed to prove the actor’s guilt beyond the reasonable doubt which is pre-requisite in any criminal case.
Justice Joshi concluded the case by the statement that “based on the evidence that was produced by the prosecution, the appellant cannot be convicted, no matter how differently common man thinks” because there are many questions are unanswered and not proved by the prosecution, like-
- Who was on the driving wheel.
- What happened to Ravindra Patel (the only eye witness of the case)
Everyone knows what is the truth behind that driving wheel, what happened that night, and who is the real culprit but as difficult it is to digest it is as easy to accept that money rules it all and power of money is beyond any other power in India. The actor is acquitted but the real price is paid by those helpless victims who waited for the justice for over 13 years with a hope that one day they will get the justice that is mentioned in the law books of India and compensation for that heinous act of the actor as most of them are permanently injured and are disabled to work for their lifetime.
The richer drinks and the poorer are trodden and man slaughtered in their sleep, it the victims who always have to suffer as the culprits run free. The victims are either left to death or injured for a lifetime and the compensation given to then is even too low; the bill regarding which is still pending in the Parliament to increase the compensation from 25,000 rupees to 2 lakhs. An appeal has been filed by the Maharastra then Chief Minister, Mr. Fadnavis but it is too obvious to guess the last verdict and what it will bring to those helpless victims when the first judgment came after 13 years of that incident then god knows how long years it’s going to take.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Whether the charge of Culpable Homicide not amounting to murder can be applied to negligent motor vehicle “accidents”?
Answer: It is well settled by the Indian court that yes under the case of negligent motor vehicle accidents, the charge of culpable homicide can be applied.
It was ruled by Justice RM Lodha and Justice Jagdish Singh that” a person responsible for a reckless or rash or negligent act that causes death which he knew a reasonable man that such act was dangerous enough to lead to some untoward thing and the death was likely to be caused, may be attributed with the knowledge of the consequence and may be fastened with the culpability of homicide not amounting to murder and punishable under Section 304 Part II IPC”.
Hence, if anyone is negligently driving the car and he is aware that his actions may cause death to someone then he will be charged under Culpable Homicide not amounting to murder.
In the case of Alister Anthony Periera v. the State of Maharastra, a lady driving on Mumbai’s seafront carter road was accused of killing seven people. The Supreme Court held that although the driving was rash and negligent, the accused must have known that such kind of act of her could lead to death, only then she will be considered punishable under 304 Part II of IPC and not under Section 304A.
- What does the term “not amounting to culpable homicide” means in Section 304A, IPC?
Answer: It means that for a negligent act to fall within the purview of section 304A, there should be an absence of both knowledge and intention. In the case of Sarabjeet Singh and Ors. vs State Of Uttar Pradesh, the question was raised upon the intention of the accused. The accused lifted a child and threw him on the ground which resulted in the death of the child. It was found that though his intention was not there, knowledge was there and he was not held liable under 304A (as prayed by his counsel, considering the act as a rash act) but he was held liable under 304 (Part II).
Karnataka Good Samaritan and Medical Professional (Protection and Regulation during Emergency Situations) Act.
Rahul Mohan Sharma, ‘There were 7 Hit and Run cases every hour in 2015’ (Scroll.in, 5 August 2016) <https://scroll.in/article/813185/there-were-7-hit-and-run-cases-every-hour-in-india-in-2015> accessed 12 January 2019.
AIR 1969 Raj 86
(1974) 1 SCR 204
AIR 0212 SC 3802
 AIR 1983 SC 529
 Indian Penal Code 1860.
 Motor Vehicles Act of 1988.