Suspicious Road Accidents
The road accident involving the Unnao rape survivor has been in the news recently. This girl has filed a complaint with the Uttar Pradesh Police saying she was raped by the powerful MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar. In fact this influential politician was a member of the ruling BJP party until just a few days back, when public uproar forced them to expel him. Ever since she filed the complaint, the girl and her family members have been persecuted, but despite all the threats and bullying, they have persisted with the case.
Image Courtesy - CNBC TV18
Their quest for justice evidently led to a "Suspicious Road Accident" that took place on the 28th of July. That Sunday, the car that the rape survivor, her lawyer and few of her family members were travelling in, met with a "Suspicious Road Accident" in Rae Bareli. Two aunts of the Unnao rape survivor died in the incident, while she and her lawyer are currently in critical condition and are undergoing treatment in a hospital. The CBI team investigating the crash has stated that the truck that collided with the car was "over-speeding and driving on the wrong side of the road".
The rape survivor's mother said, "It was not an accident but a conspiracy by MLA Kuldeep Sengar to silence the survivor and eliminate all of us". The truck that collided with the victim's car had grease on its license plates to prevent the registration number from being seen or noted. And though the rape survivor had been provided with police security due to the threats received, on the day of this incident, the security was not accompanying her. Seemingly because there was less space in the car! The CBI is doing its work and the Supreme Court has also transferred all cases registered in the Unnao rape incident from a Lucknow court to Delhi, and hopefully, in time to come, the truth will emerge.
Image Courtesy - Business-Standard
But in my opinion, "Suspicious Road Accidents" will continue. Because those guilty of causing deaths on our roads are rarely punished. Just look at Section 279, 304(A) and 337 of the Indian Penal Code, under which most offenders are booked. Section 279 - Rash driving or riding on a public way. "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. Section 304 A- Causing death by negligence.
"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". Section 337- Causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others. "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".
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As you can see, the punishment is hardly a deterrent and being bailable offences; most offenders get bail and are out driving the very next day! Also in case of serious injury or death, it's the victim's side that needs to prove that the accident was the result of rash and negligent driving. They just don't have to prove this, but also establish in court that the death or injury was a direct result of the negligent act of the accused. In most cases, a smart lawyer and some favourable witnesses are all the accused needs to escape any sort of punishment.
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While the Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill that has recently been passed by both houses of parliament has many stringent rules and a substantial hike in fines for traffic offences, on looking through the various reports, I did not find anything about amendments to these above-mentioned laws. Yes, a compensation of Rs 5 lakhs for death and Rs 2.5 lakhs for grievous injury has been proposed and passed, but what about those that cause such accidents. What about punishments that can deter and force them to be more careful. Or, even prevent people from attempting murder in the guise of a road accident.
The present laws and situation are such that they truly are a 'license to kill'. So much so, that a senior police officer speaking off-record said to me, "A smart person will just drive over or crash into someone he wants to kill. Because he can actually get away with it". It's scary isn't it, that a road accident could possibly be the perfect method of premeditated murder in our country.