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This article is written by Sneha Mahawar from the Ramaiah Institute of Legal Studies. The article discusses the concept of the Good Samaritan and the laws for the Good Samaritan in India.

Meaning of Good Samaritan

In the general sense, the term ‘Samaritan’ refers to a charitable person, one who helps others. The word ‘Good Samaritan’ can be applied to an individual who with a good intention and bonafide faith without expecting any kind of favors such as reward or payment in return and without any duty of relation or care, with his own will and consent provides immediate help or assistance to another individual who is injured in an accident, or crashing, or is in any other medical condition, or discomfort, or situation of emergency. This word can only be designated to someone who assists a person who is injured, voluntarily. 

Introduction to the Good Samaritan law

The Good Samaritan law was created to protect those individuals who help accident victims from legal interventions. It is a legislation that requires an individual to come to the rescue of another who is injured or is suffering from physical injury. But the rescuer shall not be exposed to any risk of injury or harm. The Good Samaritan law is the only legislation which allows an individual who, with a good intention and bonafide faith without expecting any kind of favors such as reward or payment in return and without any duty of relation or care, with his own will and consent provides immediate help or assistance to another individual who is injured in an accident, or crashing, or is in any other medical condition, or discomfort, or situation of emergency. It also protects the Good Samaritans from any kind of legal intervention and harassment on the actions taken by them to save the life of the victims. This legislation protects the rescuer from any sort of legal liability and any other kind of liability, which may be the outcome of negligent acts or omissions on the part of the rescuer

How did the concept of the Good Samaritan law generate in India

According to recorded statistics, India owns the 1st position in the ‘Death caused due to road accidents’ list. These recorded statistics state that in India, 15 people die daily. On average, 80% of the victims of road accidents do not receive any aid within the golden hour after the accident. Golden hour is one hour after the accident has occurred during which if medical assistance is provided to the victim, it will prevent his death. In such cases, only bystanders could save the lives of the victim. But due to the fear of harassment by the police officials, payment of hospital bills, legal complications, etc. these bystanders are unwilling to help. A study was conducted by the Save LIFE Foundation and TNS India Pvt. Ltd. which gave an outcome that 74% of bystanders are unlikely to assist victims of road accidents; 88% of those 77% bystanders gave the following reasons for their reluctance to help: legal hassles, repeated police questioning and multiple court appearances; and 77% of the respondents faced detention at hospitals and having to pay hospital registration fees and other charges. In 2012, a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in the Supreme Court of India, requesting the Hon’ble court to safeguard the Good Samaritans who come forward to help the victim or injured.

Therefore, the Good Samaritan Law was introduced in India to provide a legal framework to motivate and encourage the bystanders to offer aid to the victims without any fear of legal hassles. This resulted in the introduction of the Good Samaritan (Protection from Civil and Criminal Liabilities) and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill in the Parliament in the year 2014 for protecting a Good Samaritan from civil and criminal liabilities and for establishing a supportive legal environment. The Bill aimed to constitute a Good Samaritan authority and to further create an obligation on the hospitals and the clinics to help the victims. This Bill also provides guidelines upon the rights and provisions established for the bystander. 

The Bill is still pending before the Parliament, and there was a special mention in the Rajya Sabha on 3rd May 2016. On 30th March 2016, the Supreme Court of India gave “force of law” to the guidelines for the protection of Good Samaritans issued by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways of the Government of India (GOI) laid down specific guidelines and standard operating procedures, and the Supreme Court recently approved these guidelines and made them enforceable in all States and Union Territories till effective legislation is in place.

The need for the Good Samaritan law 

The need for the Good Samaritan law came into the picture because, in the year 2015, there were 5,00,000 road accidents in which more than 1,46,000 individuals died. Moreover, in the year 2016, there were 4,80,000 road accidents in which more than 1,50,000 individuals died. 

The doctors have stated that more than 50% of these deaths occurred because the victim did not receive any medical aid within the golden hour. Hence, the creation of such a law will promote, encourage, and motivate the bystanders to overcome their fears of legal intervention and other hassles and help the injured. This law was needed mainly to protect the bystanders and the lives of the victims.

The objective of the Good Samaritan law

  • Protection of the Good Samaritans from legal and other hassles.
  • Protection of the Good Samaritans from harassment by the police officials.
  • Encourage, motivate the bystanders to provide medical aid or other assistance (take to the hospital, etc.) to the victim of road accidents within the golden hour.
  • Remove the fear of legal intervention, payment of fees, police harassment, detention, repeated questioning, investigation, court appearances. From the Good Samaritans and the bystanders. 

Analysis of the Good Samaritan (Protection from Civil and Criminal liabilities) Bill

This is a bill that applies to the entire country, i.e. India. This bill created rights and provisions of a Good Samaritan and also talked about the fund, which is designed for this purpose. The bill provides for the qualification of the chairman of the authority, and the authority is required to take representation from each state and union territory of India. It lays down the functions of the authority and also puts down the constitution of a Good Samaritan. The bill states that all the hospitals, whether private or government-owned, shall provide free medical aid to the victims of car accidents without asking the Good Samaritan to pay for the treatment. The main object of this bill is to protect the Good Samaritans from legal and other hassles, and protect them from harassment by the police officials; encourage, motivate the bystanders to provide medical aid or additional assistance (take to the hospital, etc.) to the victim of road accidents within the golden hour; and remove the fear of legal intervention, payment of fees, police harassment, detention, repeated questioning, investigation, court appearances, etc. from the Good Samaritans and the bystanders. 

Main features of the Good Samaritan Bill

  • The Good Samaritans will not be required to:
    • have repeated appearances in Courts,
    • have repeated attendance at the police station,
    • pay the conveyance expenses in case they are mandated to go to the police station or court; the costs should be paid out of the ‘Good Samaritan Fund.’
  • As per the new legislation, either it is a government or a private hospital, and are bound to provide first aid to the victims of an accident.
  • The Good samaritan can leave the hospital immediately after admitting the victim to the hospital.
  • Individuals who help the accident victims shall be educated about their rights and provisions created for them via a rights charter in hospitals. 
  • The Good samaritan shall be paid from the ‘Good Samaritan Fund’ in case of any expenses incurred by him. 

Rights and provisions of a Good samaritan 

  • A Good Samaritan is exempted from all kinds of civil and criminal liabilities that arise from any act done by him to save the life of the victims.
  • A Good Samaritan, under no circumstance, can be compelled to file an FIR or make payment of any charges for the victim’s treatment.
  • A Good Samaritan, under no circumstance, can be detained at the police station or the hospital by the police officials.
  • A Good Samaritan, under no circumstance, can be compelled to disclose or reveal either his own identity or the victim’s identity or any other evidence related to the accident. 
  • A good Samaritan can help in the investigation of the accident at his own will and consent, and for this purpose, he shall not be called repeatedly; instead, his statement shall be recorded in a single hearing.
  • A Good Samaritan shall not be asked to incur any expenses for the medical treatment of the injured victim. Instead, the hospital, whether private or government-owned, shall do it for free. If the hospital cannot handle the victim, they must shift the victim to the nearest well-equipped hospital. In case of any negligence on the part of the hospital, which causes physical or mental damage to the victim, then the hospital has to pay a penalty of minimum Rs. 10,00,000/- along with license cancellation. 
  • If any public officials force or coerce a Good Samaritan, then disciplinary actions can be taken against that official.
  • A Good Samaritan need not disclose any personal details even while filling out the Medico-Legal Case (MLC) Form, which is optional and voluntary for them.
  • A Good Samaritan shall under no circumstance be forced to incur the initial cost of the treatment as laid down by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) that no public or private hospital can demand payment for the registration and admissions costs from the Good samaritan.
  • The hospitals cannot refuse treatment to a victim In case of lack of response by a doctor in a situation of emergency it should be considered as a “Professional Misconduct,” and strict disciplinary action shall be taken against such a doctor (as per The Indian Medical Council Regulations, 2002)
  • A Good Samaritan cannot be compelled to become an eye witness, and it shall be his voluntary choice and decision.
  • A Good Samaritan can be examined via video conferencing.

Schemes or provisions for a Good Samaritan in India

Delhi Good Samaritan Scheme

This scheme provides the Good Samaritans an incentive of Rs. 2,000/- for helping the victims of road accidents. The main objective of creating this scheme is to curtail the time between the occurrence of the accident and the victim reaching the hospital.

West Bengal Good Samaritan Scheme

This scheme provides the Good Samaritans an incentive of Rs. 1,500/- for helping the victims of road accidents. The hospitals have been clearly instructed that they are not to ask any amount for treatment or registration from the rescuer, i.e., the Good Samaritan. 

Karnataka Good Samaritan and Medical Professional (Protection and Regulation During Emergency Situation) Act, 2018

This Act states that a Good Samaritan shall not be required to provide any of his personal details such as his name, phone number, address, etc. at the hospital, including for the preparation of a Medico-Legal Case (MLC) Form. It further states that a Good Samaritan shall not be asked to fulfill any procedure related to the victim or bear any medical costs for the treatment of the victim. It also states that a Good Samaritan cannot be compelled for examination by the police as per Section 9 and Section 10 of this Act. Until and unless such a Good Samaritan is proved to be an eye-witness to the accident or any other such an emergency, he can lodge a valid complaint with the authority as may be prescribed by the Government via notification, for any grievance against any police officer on the grounds of harassment or intimidation. Such authority shall ensure that a departmental inquiry and a disciplinary measure is initiated based on the complaint. 

Good Samaritan Fund

After lengthy discussions in the State Legislature, the Government of India had decided to make a fund so that the respective authorities could grant necessary sums of money to the respective body as the Government deems fit. The point was stated precisely-

  • A fund shall be created which shall be called the ‘Good Samaritan Fund’ out of which for the following reasons the sum shall be credited:
  • any amount of grants or loans can be made to the authorised authority as the Government deems fit;
  • all such sums received by the authority from such other sources, as may be prescribed by the Government of India.

Such funds shall only be used for fulfilling the objectives of this Act as per the rules specified and procedures prescribed by the Government about this Act by the specified authority. This Act further provides that the Government may divide and distribute such money from the Fund to provide support to a Good Samaritan’s reasonable expenses as per Section 14 of this Act.

Moreover, despite everything which is mentioned in Section 6 of this Act, the Government may notify via notification after setting aside the public fund for some purpose, the State Legislature can make additional rules to be followed under this Act for reimbursing the expenses which are incurred by the hospital for providing the treatment. There is a provision which states that in a situation where the hospital is unable to recover a reasonable minimum cost for the treatment provided, then the hospital authorities can apply to the respective authorities related to the fund in a manner prescribed by the Government for taking reasonable steps for recovering the amount. The Government shall specify an authority via a notification, at the district level who shall accept responsibility for the execution, implementation, and administration of this Fund and shall act as the authority for the grievance redressal under this Act.

Impact of the Good Samaritan law on the general public  

The Supreme Court passed the judgement on 30th March 2016 that is more than four years now. However, still as per the recorded statistics, the current situation of our country is that approximately 84% of our Indian citizens have no clue about the existence of such a law. Moreover, approximately 76% of medical practitioners have not taken any disciplinary actions against the professionals who have violated the guidelines of this legislation. And, nearly, 59% of the Good Samaritans were illegally detained at the police station and hospitals and were compelled to do the legal paperwork. Due to a lack of awareness among the general public, the law is not in its place, and the officials are misusing their power. 

Actions to be taken for creating awareness 

  • Making the general public aware of the existence of such legislation.
  • Inculcating confidence among the general public by making them aware of their rights and asking them to exercise them in the time of need. 
  • Apparently, there is no Central Law to protect the interests of a Good Samaritan. However, the Union Surface Transport Ministry had issued the guidelines in the year 2015 following a Supreme Court dated 30th March 2016 to protect the individuals who voluntarily come front to help the victims. So, the passing of an Act at the Central would be a great move to make.
  • A good set up of a grievance redressal system has to be made so that a Good Samaritan can take penal actions by filing against any official who harasses, or detains, or compels the Good Samaritan in any manner.
  • To control such road accidents, firstly, unplanned, and flawed road designs shall be mended, and road rages shall be prevented by making effective policies. 
  • Awareness can be created among the general public by conducting events, carrying out campaigns, organising workshops, holding seminars, arranging webinars, and other various measures of publicising the legislation.
  • Starring advertisements on such topics before the beginning of the movies at the cinema hall similar to ‘Tobacco is bad for health’ advertisements.
  • Organising nukkad natak, street plays, role plays at school, and colleges on such topics. 

Recent advancements in the Legislation

standard operating procedure

The standard operating procedure stated that any police official, either Superintendent or a senior officer at the district level or any other officer of seniority, should ensure that the procedure is followed in their respective jurisdictions. This procedure came into force after a notification that was issued by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) for implementation and execution of the process and followed when examining a Good Samaritan. 

Guidelines 

The new guidelines were implemented by various States and Union Territories, stating that a Good Samaritan is exempted from all kinds of civil and criminal liabilities. No Good Samaritan can be detained or compelled by any public servant to become an eye witness, paying hospital charges, disclosing personal details, fulfilling legal formalities, and other such related matters. 

The Save Life Foundation judgement

Save Life Foundation & Another v. The Union of India and The Karnataka Good Samaritan and Medical Professional (Protection and Regulation during Emergency Situations), 2018 

Facts:

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed by the Save Life Foundation, which is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation (NGO). This organisation’s main objective is to create a super quick and unique kind of network consisting of medical professionals or responders who can immediately come for the victim’s aid and assistance. 

In 2012, The Supreme Court of India composed a committee of experts, which was headed by Justice V.S. Agarwal, who is a former judge of the Delhi High Court. This committee was formed to deal with the creation of legislation regarding road safety and treatment of the victims of such road accidents, etc. 

In 2013, Justice V.S. Agarwal, due to some of his personal reasons he expressed his inability to continue with the committee due to which Shri S.K. Skandan (Additional Secretary) was appointed as the Ad Hoc chairman of the committee having adequate representation from the Union of India (UOI). 

The primary recommendation made by the committee dealt with the order of the Supreme Court dated 22nd April 2014 in the case law named S. Rajaseekaran v. Union of India in which reliance was placed in the report under the heading, Recommended Directions concerning the Protection of Good Samaritans and called for immediate attention and action.

The two Ministries, i.e., the Ministry of Road Transport and Highway & the Ministry of Law and Justice, also gave supportive reports on the recommendations made by the expert committee appointed by the Court for this purpose. 

Thus, the Court gave directions to both the Ministries, i.e., the Ministry of Road Transport and Highway & the Ministry of Law and Justice, to provide reasonable and necessary guidelines concerning the protection of the Good Samaritans. The instructions were issued in a notification that was titled ‘Good Samaritan Guidelines.’ 

Judgement: 

The judgement was pronounced by the Supreme Court of India on 30th March 2016, in which the main focus was based on the issue of the development of an ethical and supportive legal framework for the protection of Good Samaritans. Though the judgement aimed at emphasizing the guidelines which were issued by the notification published in 2015 under the name ‘Good Samaritan Guidelines,’ it also shed light on the critical deficiencies in the Motor Vehicles Act, 1969, and other laws governing road safety.

Conclusion 

Hence, the rights of a Good Samaritan shall be protected to save other lakhs of lives. Suppose a Good Samaritan is not protected from the evils of law, fear of the police officers, and other barriers & hindrances. In that case, our society will have to pay a massive sacrifice of the lives of the victims who suffer from road accidents. Moreover, the Bill shall soon be given assent and be converted into an Act for which will inculcate confidence among the minds of the general public.

References

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