This article is written by Nehal Kharyal, from Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies (VIPS). This is an exhaustive article that describes major hit and run cases and it’s legal consequences.
Did you know that as per the latest report of Indian government it is stated that over 1.5 lakhs deaths takes place annually due to motor accidents in India. In a layman’s term hit-and-run accidents can be described as a case where an individual hits another vehicle and flees away from the spot. However it is the civil as well as criminal responsibility of the driver to report a mishap concerning the vehicle as earlier as possible. Hit-and-run cases in India are covered under Motor Vehicles Act, 2019. This act explains the laws which are imposed on the driver or on an individual involved in hit-and-run accidents.
The biggest issue in these kinds of cases is that there is a lack of direct evidence, as there is no hard evidence to put these culprits behind the bars. Due to lack of evidence it becomes difficult for the police to investigate the matter. Sometimes due to the speeding vehicles and rush it also becomes difficult for the eyewitnesses to see how exactly the accident took place due to which they aren’t able to help with the investigation. The police left with no option have to rely on the indirect piece of evidence in such cases. It becomes very hard to identify and punish these culprits as the reason earlier mentioned that there is a lack of evidence and witnesses. However there are many instances when the law has convicted them as well.
Civil vs Criminal consequences
The accidents which take place between vehicles and pedestrians cause one death every 1.6 hours on our nation’s roads and highways, according to the data of the Center of Disease Control and Prevention(CDC). There are a number of Civil and Criminal consequences which drivers have to face if he/she is at fault. Let’s have a look at different possibilities.
- Hit and Run- When a driver accidentally strikes a pedestrian and after the accident he/ she stops there at the scene where the accident took place then the driver might face personal injury lawsuits and a higher car insurance premium but in case if a driver flees from the accident spot than he or she might get arrest or a potential prison sentence.
- Driver under intoxication(DUI)- After a vehicle-pedestrian accident if it is proved that the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs then he/she might get a DUI convict or arrest. Under this the driver will have to face higher fines, jail or harsh drivers licence penalties.
- Vehicular Manslaughter- If a vehicle operating by driver in a very reckless manner say for example if the driver is driving a vehicle at 100 miles per hour or driving a vehicle under the influence of intoxication near a school which causes the death of a student then the driver will face a criminal charge. The essential element is a driver’s “reckless disregard of the substantial risk” caused by his or her driving.
- Personal injury lawsuit or insurance claim- A driver who hits and injures a pedestrian might face a personal injury lawsuit or insurance claim by an injured person which means compensation for the loss caused by the accident. In order to file a personal injury lawsuit or to get an insurance claim then it has to be proven that the driver was at fault. This can be done by taking statements from the witness, the parties involved in the accident and examining any police report which is made after the crash. The injured person might ask for compensation from the driver for all the injuries and the damages which are associated with the accident. Their compensation might include payment for medical expenses, time missed at workplace, pain and suffering caused by accident etc.
- Wrongful death lawsuit- This clause helps the surviving members of a deceased person to bring a lawsuit against the person who is responsible for causing death. In order to get this kind of claim, one has to prove that there is negligence on the part of the driver which caused the accident and then ask for compensation for the survivor’s losses. This compensation might include expenses incurred for the funeral, loss of deceased support.
Hit-and-Run case fine
Over 30% of all road accidents in India are hit-and-run cases but sadly out of this only 10% of road accident drivers are booked. This statistics shows how roads have become unsafe for everyone. In order to curb this problem many legislation have been made to punish an individual involved in a hit-and-run accident. As according to Section 161 of the Motor Vehicle Act, it defined a hit-and-run case as “an accident arising out of the use of a motor vehicle the identity whereof cannot be ascertained in spite of reasonable efforts for the purpose.” There are also certain sections under Indian Penal Code, 1860 which are imposed on the victim of hit-and-run incidents.
- Section 279– Under this section it is stated that any person who drives vehicles rashly on a public road will be guilty under this section. Persons found guilty under this section have to face imprisonment for 6 months, fine of Rs 1000/- or both can be imposed on a driver. The offence committed under this section is bailable and is cognizable by the district magistrate.
- Section 304A– Under this section it is stated that if a driver is not intoxicated but leads to the death of a person in the accident then he/she will be liable under this section. The driver may face imprisonment of year which may extend upto 2 years with a fine of more than Rs 1000/- or both. The offence committed under this section is a non-bailable offence.
- Section 302– Under extreme conditions police may book a rider under this section. This section deal with the offence of murder. Driver booked under this section might face imprisonment for life or death penalty.
- Incase of the accident by the minor then the act imposes the 3 years of the jail to the parents along with heavy fines.
Major hit-and-run cases in India
- Shilpa Mittal vs State of NCT of Delhi– This case is generally known as the 2016 Mercedes hit-and-run case. In this case the accused was a tennager at the time of the accident who allegedly ran over 32 years old Siddharth Sharma with his father’s Mercedes near the Ludlow Castle School in North Delhi on 4 April 2016.
According to the police the incident took place at around 8:55pm that day when Siddharth’s friend dropped him near Civil Lines area. While he was about to cross the road a speeding Mercedes hit him. In this case the juvenile was kept in custody for over 8 hours and later he was released on bail.
- Sanjeev Nanda vs The State– In the year 1999, Sanjeev Nanda who is a son of Indian arms dealer ran his car over six people, including three police officers. Nanda and several others were acciquated initially but later in 2008 Mr. Nanda was found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison which was reduced to time served, a heavy fine and two years of community service by the Supreme Court of India in 2012. However, this judgment of the court catches great media attention and is viewed by India Today as “a test of the judicial system’s ability to take on the powerful”.
- Janhavi Narendra Gikkwad vs The State Of Maharashtra– This case is also known as Reliance lawyer hit-and-run case. In this case Janhavi Gadkar who was 35 years old at that time, was a vice president with a legal team at Reliance Industries Limited. The incident took place when she was returning from a party in her Audi Q3. She rammed her car into a taxi in which Salim Saboonwala and his family had gone out for dinner to a dhaba as his son had obtained over 90% in his SSC exam. While Janhavi saved herself as her Audi airbags got opened but this incident caused two deaths in Saboonwala’s family and rest were injured.
Jahanvi was booked under “culpable homicide not amounting to murder” along with rash driving charges.
- Tousif Sohrab Tausiff Sohrab Sambia v. The State Of West Bengal– In this case an over speeding car hit IAF Corporal Abhimanyu Gaud during a Republic Day parade rehearsal in the early hours in January, 2016. The car which hit IAF Abhimanyu was driven by an Ex-MLA’s younger son Sambia Sohrab. After hitting the officer, he crashed into a guard rail and then fled from the spot. Later charge sheet was filed and after 2 months he mowed down an IAF officer.
- Alister Anthony Pareira vs State Of Maharashtra– In this case Alistar Anthony who was 21 years old lost control over his sedan car which ended into a group of construction workers sleeping on Carter road. This led to the death of seven people. The incident took place when Pareira was returning back to his home along with his friends after a Saturday night party at a five-star hotel. Pareira got convicted and sentenced to six months jail but later in 2007 Pareira got bail from the Supreme Court.
What to be done after an accident
After an accident, the victim has to go through a lot of stress but it is always advisable to stay calm. You should gather the information of the driver at fault because if you have proper information then chances to catch the person who is at fault will be higher. If you see any witnesses ask them for their name and contact details. Besides this, you should also note the following-
- Note down the time and location of the accident
- Get the picture of the scene of the accident
- Get pictures of your vehicle
The above-mentioned points will also help you to take a claim from your insurance company and this will also help you to prove that it is not a false claim.
Filing a First Information Report(FIR)
It is necessary for the victim of a hit-and-run accident to report this incident to the nearest police station. After informing, the victim will get an FIR filed and this will help the victim to get his car insurance claim.
What should not be done after a hit-and-run accident
If you are involved in a hit-and run accident then you must avoid doing certain things and those are-
- Do not try to run from an accident spot.
- Try to get the vehicle at a safe place, don’t wait in the travel lane.
- Do not leave the accident scene without collecting adequate information.
- Wait for the police, do not block the traffic.
The knowledge of the hit-and-run case mostly came to the people after the Salman Khan hit-and-run which took place in 2002. In this case he was accused of driving his car onto the footpath into a group of homeless people. There are many high profile cases in India which took place but only some of them get attention. The usual reason found behind hit-and-run cases are rash driving, drink and drive etc. Compensation given to victims is very low. However a bill is pending in the parliament to increase the same from 25 thousand to 2 lakhs.
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