This article has been written by Naveen Talawar, a student at Karnataka State Law University’s law school. The article talks about Section 279 of the Indian Penal Code in detail.
This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar.
Negligence, without a doubt, has no goal or intention for a certain consequence. There is always a hurried activity performed without adequate thinking and prudence. It causes an outcome that the perpetrator did not foresee and for which he may later be regretful. But he is penalized not for the result which he could not have predicted, but for the method in which he performed the dangerous deed. Even if the phrases ‘rash’ or ‘negligent’ are fairly similar, they are distinct. The perpetrator violates a positive obligation by failing to disclose the conduct for which he is responsible; this occurs in circumstances of negligence. In his rush, the party commits an act that he is obligated to refrain from and thereby violates a negative duty. He refers to the conduct, but not to the consequences of the act. A person driving a car into a crowd understands what he’s doing, but he hasn’t adequately considered the consequences of his actions. He is overconfident, which causes him to believe that nothing bad would happen to him. Section 279 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 is concerned with rash and negligent driving of a vehicle or riding on a public road in such a way as to risk human life or cause harm or injury to any person.
Rash and negligent driving
When a driver disregards traffic regulations, he looks to be driving rashly and negligently. Rash and negligent driving is usually the result of the driver’s carelessness. Carelessness may be used to determine rashness or negligence on the side of the driver under Section 279 of the Indian penal code; however, just driving at a high speed does not constitute rash driving. When the driver is capable of controlling the vehicle’s high speed or when the road on which he is travelling appears vacant, his actions are not considered rash or negligent.
It is essential to comply with the maximum speed limit, especially on highways. Overspeeding a vehicle over the permissible limit is a violation under Section 279, which is usually set by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. This is because speeding on public roadways endangers your life and the lives of others. It is worth noting, however, that exceeding a vehicle’s speed limit is not considered careless driving. Similarly, overspeeding a car, while there is no traffic on the road, is not considered rash and negligent driving.
Ingredients of Section 279 IPC
The Section necessitates two things:
- Driving or riding in a public way
- Such driving or riding must be rash or negligent to the point of endangering human life or causing harm or injury to others.
Rash or negligent
Rash or negligent driving must be assessed in the context of the facts and circumstances of each case. It is a fact that cannot be interpreted or seen in isolation. Thus, the preliminary conditions are
- how the vehicle is driven;
- whether it is driven rashly or negligently; and
- whether such rash or negligent driving endangers human life.
Endanger human life
It must be proven that the accused was driving the vehicle in a public place in a way that endangered human life or was likely to cause harm or injury to others. It is not necessary that the rash or negligent act should result in injury to life or property.
Applicability of Section 279 IPC
To establish an offence punishable under Section 279 of the IPC, it must be proven that the accused was driving the vehicle on a public road in a rash and negligent way, threatening human life or likely to cause harm or injury to another person. It is forbidden to take the danger of conducting such an act carelessly or without regard for the consequences. Criminal rashness and criminal negligence have to be similar. It can’t just be carelessness or an error in judgment. To be convicted under this provision, it must be shown that the accused was driving the vehicle on a public road in a manner that endangered human life or was likely to cause harm or injury to another person.
The meaning of criminal rashness and negligence was defined in Empress of India v. Idu Beg  as follows: “criminal rashness is hazarding a dangerous or wanton act with the knowledge that it will cause injury but without the intention to cause injury or knowledge that it will probably be caused. The criminality lies in running the risk of doing such an act with recklessness or indifference as to the consequences. Criminal negligence is the willful and culpable neglect to take reasonable and proper care and precautions to avoid injury to the public in general or to an individual in particular, taking into account all of the circumstances surrounding the charge”
When the charge against the accused is rash driving rather than negligent driving, the only question is whether the accused was driving at a reckless speed and, if so, whether the speed was such that it endangered human life or was likely to cause harm or injury to another person. Even if the road is empty or not used by any pedestrians or vehicles, reckless driving is still illegal under this Section. In State of Karnataka v Santanam,  the Karnataka High Court found military personnel guilty of rash and negligent driving after he drove a military truck in a wayward manner and crashed a two-wheeler, killing him and causing two other accidents on the road. It was held in Badri Prasad Tiwari v. The State,  that a mere error in judgment does not constitute a rash and negligent act.
Nature of Section 279 IPC
The offence punishable under Section 279 of the IPC is a cognizable Offence, which means that the police can arrest someone for a crime without a warrant, but such Offences are bailable. The issuance of bail in a bailable Offence is a matter of right. The right can be given by a police officer holding the accused in custody or by a court with discretion, and it is triable by the Magistrate who has jurisdiction over the region where the crime was committed.
Punishment for an offence committed under Section 279 IPC
A person who commits a crime under Section 279 of the IPC by rash driving on a public way faces a maximum penalty of six months imprisonment, a fine of up to 1000 rupees, or both. The duration of imprisonment and penalties will be determined by the severity of the Offence.
The Court held in Dalbir Singh v. State Of Haryana , that one of the primary considerations for deciding the appropriate sentence for causing death by rash or negligent driving of vehicles should be deterrence.
According to the court, one of the most efficient ways of keeping drivers under mental surveillance is to have a deterrent effect in the area of punishment. Any amount of freedom in that area would convince them to turn driving into a game. It was decided in State Of Punjab v. Balwinder Singh  that if the prosecution can prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, courts must investigate all relevant facts and circumstances before deciding on a sentence and imposing a term that is suitable for the offence.
Rash driving or riding on a public way under Section 279 IPC
There are three essential things that must be known in order to understand this provision. Section 279 of the Indian Penal Code makes it illegal to drive a vehicle on a public road in a rash or negligent manner that endangers human life or is likely to cause harm or injury to anybody.
For instance, if a person drives a vehicle on the road without necessary care and attention, he is guilty of violating this Section. It is important to note that the individual was driving without taking the precautions that a prudent person would have done. There are three essential things that must be known to understand Section 279.
- Rash driving or riding – Section 279 makes it illegal to drive a vehicle on a public road in a rash or negligent manner that endangers human life or is likely to cause harm or injury to anybody.
- Public way– Any road or passage that is open to the public is referred to as a public way. It is seen as either a direct connection to a town or a route between towns.
- Rash or negligent driving– In law, the phrase ‘negligent’ refers to an omission to do something that a reasonable and wise person led by common human-interest considerations would do, or something that a prudent and reasonable person guided by similar considerations would not do. This principle was held in the case of Ravi Kapoor v. State of Rajasthan .
In cases of rash or negligent driving, rash or negligent behavior doesn’t need to cause injury to a person’s life or property. In many cases, speed is not the most important factor in establishing whether a driver was reckless or negligent. Even if a person is driving a vehicle at a slow speed but negligently and recklessly, it would amount to rash and negligent driving under this provision. The relationship between speed and rashness or recklessness is location and time-dependent in this circumstance.
For example, on a straight road with no other cars or pedestrians, it is impossible to say that driving at a high speed or failing to blow the horn constitutes rashness or negligence.
It was stated in State of Himachal Pradesh v. Amar Nath  that, an accused person cannot be held accountable for death caused by misadventure if he did not drive or rashly or negligently. On the other hand, even if no one was wounded, he would be accountable if his driving was such that it made the cause of harm or injury possible, or if it put people’s lives in danger. In determining whether a person is rash or negligent in driving, driving at an excessive speed on a public road may be a prima facie proof of rash driving.
How is Section 279 related to Section 304A, 337 and 338 of IPC
The Indian Penal Code has provisions for penalizing acts of negligence and rash driving apart from Section 279, which are as follows::
Section 304A IPC
Section 304A of the IPC deals with causing death through negligence or rash conduct. If a person causes the death of another person by negligent or reckless behavior that does not amount to culpable homicide, they face up to two years in prison, a fine, or both.
The four primary conditions that a person must meet in order to do a negligent act are as follows:
- Duty: The defendant must accept some responsibility for negligent behavior. It is essential to evaluate if the defendant has a legal duty of care to the plaintiff.
- Breach of Duty: The plaintiff must establish that the defendant breached a legal duty owed to him/her. A legal obligation owed to him or her. It explains the defendant’s breach of duty, which he/she is expected to do because he/she owes the plaintiff some legal duty.
- The action of causing something: The plaintiff has suffered harm as a result of the defendant’s actions. The defendant may do an act that was not anticipated of him or be negligent in failing to perform an act that was required of him.
- Damages: The plaintiff must have suffered some sort of injury as a direct result of the defendant’s acts.
Section 304A has the following essential components:
- A person must die
- the death must be the result of the accused’s actions;
- the death must be the result of the accused’s negligent act, and
- the accused’s act must not constitute culpable homicide.
The rule applies where there is a direct relationship between the accused’s rash or negligent conduct and the death of the person in question. The behavior must be the direct cause of death.
Section 337 IPC
Section 337 of the Indian Penal Code forbids “causing hurt by an act endangering the life or safety of others.” The offence is punishable under this clause if a person’s rash or negligence in performing a work endangers the safety or lives of others. Depending on the conduct performed, the penalty might range from six months in prison to a fine of five hundred rupees, or both. It is a cognizable and bailable Offence. It can also be compounded by the victims if the court permits.
The ingredients of Section 337 are as follows
- Section 337 requires that the conduct be committed as a result of the offender’s haste or negligence. Under Section 304A of the IPC, the concept of rashness and negligence is defined in great detail.
- The conduct had to have inflicted bodily harm and put others’ lives or personal safety at risk.
- The reason for the act’s occurrence is not taken into account in this Section.
Section 338 IPC
This Section has been used to penalise those who cause serious harm to others by acting rashly or negligently and endangering their lives or personal safety. According to the Section, anyone who causes grievous harm to another person by acting rashly or negligently in such a way as to endanger either human life or the personal safety of others is punishable by simple or rigorous imprisonment for a term of up to two years, or a fine of up to one thousand rupees, or both. Section 338 is a cognizable, bailable, and compoundable offence that can be tried by any magistrate.
Relation between Sections 279, 304A, 337 and 338 IPC
A driver may be punished under Section 279 of the Indian Penal Code if his or her rash driving or negligence results in the death or physical injury of a pedestrian. The individual will also be charged with causing harm by an act endangering personal safety or the lives of others, as well as inflicting serious injuries by an act endangering personal safety or the lives of others, under Sections 337 and 338 of the IPC, respectively. And if the driver causes an accident negligently that results in the death of another person, then he will be charged under Section 304A of the IPC.
This clearly states that Section 279 of the IPC applies exclusively to rash and negligent driving in public ways that endanger the lives of others. If, on the other hand, the driver causes death or physical harm to another person, he or she is punished under Sections 337 and 338 of the Indian Penal Code.
In this regard, the Punjab and Haryana High Court held in one of its judgments that a truck driver who was driving his vehicle at a high speed rashly and negligently climbed the walkway and hit the deceased from behind, killing him. He was charged under Sections 279 and 337 of the IPC for his reckless and careless driving in a public way.
As a result, Section 279 only deals with and punishes a driver for rash and negligent driving on a public way that may endanger a person’s life; however, if the driver’s act causes actual injury or death, this Section will be read in conjunction with other Sections, such as Section 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others), Section 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others), and Section 304A (causing death by negligence) under IPC.
How to file or defend a case under Section 279 IPC
There are two ways to file a case under Section 279 of the Indian Penal Code. A person can apply to lodge an FIR, under Section 154 of CrPC, with a police officer in charge orally or in writing. If the person has been denied the right to file an FIR by the officer in charge, he or she can send the information to the Superintendent of Police in charge, who will review it and, if satisfied that the information provided is a cognizable offence, will investigate the case or assign an officer lower than his Cadre. Whoever investigates the matter will have all investigation powers.
Another alternative is to submit a complaint with a magistrate under Criminal Procedure Code, Section 200. The magistrate must receive the complaint either orally in court or in writing. After receiving the complaint, the magistrate will hold a hearing and decide on the issue of cognizance.
Even if a vehicle is driven recklessly and negligently at a reasonable speed, recently the Kerala High Court determined that it is still regarded as ‘rash and negligent driving under Section 279 of the IPC.
The case was brought up suo moto by the Court after a Sabarimala devotee reported that the tractors used for goods transportation on the Sabarimala trekking path were endangering pilgrims’ safety; as a consequence, the Court took suo moto notice of the devotee’s objections. The Court stated that “A person who drives a vehicle on the road may be held accountable for both the conduct and the consequence. Even if one is driving a car at a modest pace yet recklessly and negligently, it is considered ‘rash and negligent driving under Section 279 of the Indian Penal Code.”
Landmark cases under Section 279 IPC
Braham Dass v. State of Himachal Pradesh
The facts of this case are, that the appellant is a bus driver for the Himachal Pradesh Road Transportation Corporation. The vehicle had come to a stop at a bus station along the journey. A passenger got off the bus and went to the roof to unpack some luggage. The driver started the bus while the passenger was on the roof, without waiting for a signal from the bus conductor and without checking if passengers who had alighted had boarded back and those who planned to get off had gotten off, resulting in the passenger on the roof falling from the moving bus and sustaining injuries. He was subsequently transferred to a nearby hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.
In this case, the Court stated that Section 279 deals with rash driving or riding in a public way. The accused must prove that he or she was driving any vehicle in a public area in a manner that endangered human life or was likely to cause harm or injury to another person, as per a basic understanding of this provision. Charges under Section 279 IPC are not based on negligence. As a result, before Section 279 can be used, it must be shown that there was an element of rash or negligence.
Ravi Kapur v. State of Rajasthan
The facts of this case are as follows: there were two jeeps heading to the wedding, and there was also a Maruti car ahead of these jeeps. A bus was approaching from the opposite side at great speed, so the driver of the Maruti car instantly shifted his car to one side to save himself, and the bus collided with one of the two jeeps. Some of the members died on the spot as a consequence of the terrible accident.
In this case, the Supreme Court held that rash and negligent driving must be considered in light of the facts and circumstances of each case. It’s a fact that can’t be comprehended or viewed separately. It needs to be viewed in light of the surrounding circumstances. A person who operates a motor vehicle on the road may be held responsible for both their actions and the results. It’s not always easy to establish whether someone was driving recklessly or negligently simply on the speed of their vehicle. Both of these actions point to unusual behavior. Under Section 279, even driving a car at a slow speed but recklessly and negligently is termed “rash and negligent driving.”
Prafulla Kumar Rout v. State of Orissa
When students from Khantapade Girl’s High School were going home from school, a bus named ‘Madhabika’ driven by the accused ramped up, collided with the deceased ran her over and killed her instantly on the spot. The accused, who was driving the bus, left the vehicle and escaped.
As the accident happened in front of the school, the Orissa High Court declared that drivers should be cautious and slow down when driving near educational institutions. The accused was found guilty under this provision.
Popat Bhaginath Kasar v. State of Maharastra
The Bombay High Court held in this case that when a person drives his vehicle at a high speed even though it is a densely populated and busy road, it is one of the shades of driving the vehicle in a rash and negligent manner.
State v. Gulam Meer
The issue of this case was whether it was correct that a person who engages in rash and negligent driving on a public road in a way that endangers human life cannot be punished for the crime under Section 279, IPC if such driving also injures another person.
According to the Court, an offence under Section 279, I.P.C. differs from an offence under Section 337 or Section 338, I.P.C., and therefore a person convicted of an offence under Section 337 or Section 338, I.P.C. can also be convicted of an offence under Section 279, I.P.C. If the two offences, on the other hand, are committed in the same transaction.
Every day, more individuals died as a result of negligent or reckless driving. Dependents of victims are left with no means of support and are forced to beg on the streets. This has caused widespread concern in society since it puts many people’s lives at danger, particularly pedestrians. To reduce the rising number of fatalities, lawmakers must investigate, assess, appraise, and re-visit sentence policies underparts of the Indian Penal Code dealing with reckless driving.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- What is rash and negligent driving?
When a driver disregards traffic regulations, he looks to be driving rashly and negligently. Rash and negligent driving is usually the result of the driver’s carelessness.
- What are the ingredients of Section 279 of IPC?
To establish an Offence punishable under Section 279 of the IPC, it must be shown that the accused was driving the vehicle on a public road in a rash and negligent way, threatening human life or likely to cause harm or injury to another person.
- What is the nature of the Offence of Section 279 IPC?
The Offence punishable under Section 279 of the IPC is a cognizable Offence, which means that the police can arrest someone for a crime without a warrant, but such Offences are bailable.
- What is the penalty for a violation of Section 279 IPC?
A person who commits a crime under Section 279 of the IPC by rash driving or riding on a public way faces a maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment, a fine of up to 1000 Rupees, or both. The duration of imprisonment and penalties will be determined by the severity of the offence.
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