Section 120A

This‌ ‌article‌ ‌has‌ ‌been‌ ‌written‌ ‌by‌ ‌‌Srejan Gupta Reza ‌ from Jagran Lakecity University, School of Law, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. The article explains Section 279 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and sheds light on the nuances surrounding this Section.

It has been published by Rachit Garg.


Rash driving refers to an act of driving a vehicle in a reckless and irresponsible manner that endangers human life or is likely to cause injury to any other person. The act of rash driving includes the acts of speeding, racing, overtaking, ignoring traffic signals, driving while intoxicated, etc. In recent times, the act of rash driving has become one of the major problems for the road users. This has been caused due to various reasons such as the increasing number of vehicles, distractions while driving, pressure to meet deadlines, lack of road safety education, impaired driving, etc. Rash driving can have severe causes for both the drivers as well as other people on the road.

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The provision under Section 279 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860, is in place to protect the safety of the public and to prevent accidents that can result in injury and death. The fundamental objective of this provision is to deter individuals from driving and riding recklessly on public roads and to ensure road safety for the public. The provision aims to promote responsible driving habits and to prevent individuals from endangering themselves and others on the road. 

Which crime is defined under Section 279 IPC 

Section 279 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, is titled “Rash driving or riding on a public way”. Under this Section, the act of rash or negligent driving in a public way endangering human life or likely to cause injuries to persons has been made an offence. The Section provides that any person who is driving or riding any motor vehicle on a public road or other public ways in a rash or negligent manner so as to endanger human life or cause any kind of hurt or injury to any other person shall be liable to punishment. 


For example- a person named “Z” is driving a car on a busy road in a reckless manner without regard to the safety of the other road users. He is speeding and veering in and out of lanes and is overtaking other vehicles in an unsafe manner. While doing this, he causes a collision with another car and injures the driver and the passengers of the other car.

In the aforementioned scenario, “Z” has inter alia committed the offence of rash driving under Section 279 and he’s liable for the appropriate punishment under the provision.

Essentials of crime under Section 279 IPC

A brief reading of the provision under Section 279 explicates that there are three essential ingredients that need to be fulfilled in order to establish a crime of rash driving or riding on a public way. The prosecution, in order to establish an offence under this Section, must prove that:

  1. The accused drove any vehicle on road or on any public way,
  2. The vehicle was driven in a rash or negligent manner,
  3. There was an endangerment to human life or harm to any other person.

Public way 

The term public way is not defined anywhere in the Code, but generally, the term refers to any road, street, highway or pathways that are intended for the use of the general public.

Rash or negligent

In the context of the provision under Section 279 of IPC, the terms rash and negligent refer to the degree of carelessness or recklessness of a person while driving a vehicle. The terms rash and negligent are distinguishable in the sense that “rash” refers to a person’s disregard to safety while driving, whereas the term “negligent” suggests a person’s failure to take reasonable care while driving. The question as to whether a person was negligent or rash while driving depends upon the facts and circumstances of the case. For example, the act of driving at high speeds or overtaking recklessly can be considered as rash driving, whereas negligence includes things such as failure to obey the traffic rules, driving while being distracted, etc.

Endangerment of human life

In order to ascertain that an offence under Section 279 was committed, it is necessary to demonstrate that the accused was driving the vehicle in such a manner so as to endanger the life of a human being or would cause any other harm to another person. When a person is driving on the wrong side of the road at the time of a collision, he must satisfy the court that he was not rash or negligent in driving on that side.

In the Balakrishnan Nair v. P. Vijayan (2020) case, it was noted that a person who drives a vehicle on a public road is accountable not only for their actions but also for the consequences. The speed at which a vehicle is driven is not always a reliable indicator of whether someone was driving recklessly or negligently. Driving at a slow speed would still qualify as “rash or negligent driving” under Section 279 of IPC if the vehicle was driven in a reckless manner. That is why the legislature, in its wisdom, has used the words ‘manner so rash or negligent as to endanger human life’. To apply this law, three matters must be considered: (a) the way in which the vehicle was driven; (b) whether it was driven recklessly or negligently and; (c) if such negligent or reckless driving endangers human life. If all three criteria are met, the penalties stated in Section 279 of IPC will be imposed.

Punishment under Section 279 IPC

Scope of the punishment

Any person who is found guilty of the offence under Section 279 is held to be liable to a sentence of imprisonment, which may extend to a term of six months, a fine, which may extend to one thousand rupees, or both. The type of imprisonment under Section 279 can be simple or rigorous, subject to the facts and circumstances of the case.

Section 279 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) deals with the offence of rash driving or riding on a public way. According to this section, the minimum punishment for committing such an offence is a fine that is less than one thousand rupees, or imprisonment that is less than six months. However, the exact amount and duration of the punishment are at the discretion of the presiding judge or magistrate, depending on the specific circumstances of the case.

On the other hand, the maximum punishment that can be imposed for the offence under Section 279 of the IPC is six months of imprisonment along with a fine of one thousand rupees. This means that if the accused is found guilty of reckless driving or riding, they can face imprisonment for up to six months and be required to pay a fine of up to one thousand rupees. It is important to note that the severity of the punishment will depend on various factors, such as the nature and extent of the harm caused, the degree of recklessness involved, and any previous convictions of the accused.

Overall, the provisions under Section 279 of the IPC aim to deter individuals from driving or riding in a reckless manner on public roads, and ensure that those who endanger the lives of others are held accountable for their actions.

A case where the convict was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment is the case of Subhash Chand v. State of Punjab (2019), where the Appellant was driving a truck at a high speed and in a negligent manner on the wrong side of a busy road, resulting in an accident that led to the death of an un-numbered Hero Moped driver. The Trial Court found that he was responsible for the accident and that there was no doubt about his identity as the driver of the offending vehicle as he surrendered at his own command. As a result, the accused was convicted of offences under Section 279 and Section 304A of the IPC and sentenced to six months of rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 1000 with a default stipulation for the offence.

Rules regarding bail under Section 279

The offence under Section 279 is a bailable offence. It means that if a person is arrested under this Section, he can apply for bail before the investigation officer or before the magistrate.

Bail serves as a crucial tool to balance the right to liberty of an accused with the need to ensure their presence during legal proceedings. As per the provisions of Section 436 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), an accused in a bailable offence has an unequivocal right to be released on bail. As soon as the accused person expresses their willingness to furnish bail, it becomes the duty of the police officer or the court before whom the bail is offered to release them on reasonable bail terms.

It shall be noted that the discretion in deciding the reasonability of the terms of the bail lies with the concerned officer or the court. In certain situations, the officer or the court may discharge the accused on execution of a bail-bond, as provided under Section 436 of the CrPC, instead of accepting bail. This approach is taken to ensure that the accused is not held in custody for a prolonged period, which could be detrimental to their fundamental right to liberty.

However, it should be understood that while bail is a right in bailable offences, it is not an absolute right. In the event that the accused breaches the conditions of the bail or bail bond, they can be remanded to custody. This provision is in place to ensure that the accused does not misuse their freedom and continues to cooperate with the legal process.

How to defend against a charge under Section 279 of IPC

The consequences of being accused of a crime can be extremely severe and far-reaching. Not only can the accused face the possibility of being incarcerated or having to pay substantial fines, but they may also experience significant social ramifications that can impact their reputation and personal and professional lives. Criminal charges can lead to stigmatisation and social isolation that can cause immense emotional distress and trauma.

Moreover, the legal proceedings that follow a criminal arrest can be lengthy, complex, and emotionally draining. Navigating the legal system without proper guidance can be overwhelming, particularly when dealing with the potential consequences of a criminal conviction. Therefore, it is critical to seek the advice of a seasoned criminal lawyer when faced with criminal charges.

An experienced criminal lawyer can provide valuable legal counsel and educate the accused about their rights throughout the legal process. They can also help the accused understand the charges against them, potential penalties, and legal strategies for securing the best possible outcome for their case.

Hiring a criminal lawyer can also alleviate the stress and burden of navigating the legal system alone. Lawyers are well-versed in the law and can assist in filing paperwork, negotiating plea deals, and presenting a compelling defence in court.

Important case laws on Section 279 IPC 

Recent judgements

Prathap Kumar G v. State of Karnataka & Ors (2022)

In this case, the complainant’s mother was walking her pet dog when it was hit by a Fortuner SUV, resulting in its death. The dog was taken to a veterinary clinic, where it was declared dead. The Karnataka High Court reviewed the case and concluded that the definition under Section 279 of IPC, which covers acts likely to cause injury or harm to a person, does not extend to pets. Therefore, the injury or death of a pet would not be covered under this definition. The decision indicates that while the law seeks to protect human lives and prevent harm, it does not explicitly cover harm caused to animals. 

Thangasamy v. The State of Tamil Nadu (2019)

In this case, the Appellant was found guilty of rash and negligent driving, which resulted in the deaths of four individuals and injuries to three others. Despite the severity of the offences, the trial court imposed a relatively lenient sentence of only four months imprisonment for each count of offence under Section 304A of the IPC. Additionally, the Appellant was fined Rs. 100 for each count of offence under Section 337 of the IPC and Rs. 200 for the offence under Section 279 of the IPC. The punishment awarded in this case was rather on the light side, given the gravity of the offences committed. This decision highlights the need for courts to impose appropriate punishments that are commensurate with the harm caused by the actions of the accused.

Popular Judgements

Dalbir Singh v. State of Haryana (2000)

In this case, the Supreme Court, while determining the quantum of sentence for the offence of causing death by rash or negligent driving of automobiles, stressed the importance of deterrence. In this regard, the Court made the observation that professional drivers should constantly remind themselves of the potential consequences of any moment of laxity or inattentiveness while operating a vehicle.  It is imperative that they do not take any chances and assume that their reckless driving will not result in an accident or that any resulting accident will not lead to the loss of human life. Furthermore, drivers should not assume that even if a death occurs, they will not be convicted of the offence or that they will receive a lenient sentence. Overall, the Court’s observation highlights the need for professional drivers to exercise the utmost caution and responsibility while driving to prevent any harm or damage to themselves or others.

Manish Jalan v. State of Karnataka (2008)

In this case, the person who was accused of reckless and negligent driving was found not to have been under the influence of alcohol or any other substance that would impair their ability to drive. The conviction of the appellant under sections 279 and 304A, IPC, was maintained, however, the substantive sentence of imprisonment was reduced to the period already undergone and the imposition of a fine was also affirmed. The Supreme Court opined that the ends of justice would be met if the sentence of imprisonment was reduced to the period already undergone. The defendant was convicted under Section 279 and 304A of the IPC, but the Court decided to reduce their sentence to the time already served and upheld the imposition of a fine. In order to ensure that justice was served, the Court also ordered the appellant to pay an amount of Rs. 1,00,000 to the mother of the deceased as compensation. 

State of Himachal Pradesh v. Amar Nath (2001)

In this case, due to the rash and negligent driving of the truck by the respondent, he hit the taxi, which was being driven by the complainant. The respondent was held guilty of having committed offences under sections 279 and 337 of the IPC. Accordingly, he was sentenced to pay a fine of Rs. 5,000/- under Section 279 and to undergo simple imprisonment for one month in the event of default in the payment of fine. He was also sentenced to pay a fine of Rs. 5,000/- under Section 337 and, in default of payment, to undergo simple imprisonment for one month. 

Puttuswamy v. State of Karnataka (2008)

In this case, the Appellant caused the death of a seven-year-old girl on account of his rash and negligent driving of his tractor. The Supreme Court upheld the appellants’ conviction under Section 279 and Section 304A IPC, despite the agreement made by the parties involved. Additionally, the Court increased the amount of the fine from Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 20,000, which the appellant must pay to the parents of the deceased. The appellant’s sentence was reduced to the period that they had already served, provided that they paid the fine. 

This decision indicates that the court takes violations and accidents resulting in loss of life very seriously and seeks to hold responsible parties accountable for their actions.


In conclusion, the provision under Section 279 provides for a requisite punishment for the persons who engage in the act of rash and reckless driving, thereby putting the lives of innocent people at risk. The provision under Section 279 was implemented by the Indian Government with the intent to ensure that the roads in the country are safe to operate on and commute on. It is the responsibility of the people to drive cautiously, or else they will have to face punishment under the law. If a person driving a vehicle causes an accident due to his rashness, he is charged under Section 279 as well as other provisions under Section 337 and Section 338. He can be charged under Section 304A if his act causes the death of a person. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

What is the maximum punishment under Section 279 of IPC?

The maximum punishment under Section 279 is six months’ imprisonment, a fine of Rs. 1000, or both.

What is the nature of the offence under Section 279 of IPC?

The offence under this Section is a cognizable offence, which means that the police authorities have the power to arrest the accused without a warrant. The offence is also bailable, non-compoundable and can be tried by any magistrate.

Does the offence under Section 279 come under a petty offence?

The offence under Section 279 is a cognizable offence and is punishable by imprisonment, a fine, or both. Therefore, it is not a petty offence.

Which court has the jurisdiction to try a case under Section 279 of IPC?

The cases that fall within the ambit of Section 279 of the IPC can be tried in the court of any magistrate.

Whether an arrest is made with or without warrant under Section 279 of IPC? 

The offence under Section 279 IPC is a cognizable offence; therefore, a police officer can arrest without a warrant from the court. 

Whether a court can convict a person under Section 279 and 337 IPC for the commission of the same act of offence and accordingly pass the sentence under both sections?

The offence being the outcome of the same act, the accused shall be punished for one offence at the same time, but it shall be considered that when the sentence prescribed under Section 279 is more severe than the one prescribed under Section 337, the accused shall be punished under Section 279 only. 


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