In India, each year more than 150,000 people die in a road accident which is about 400 fatalities a day. Despite Governments, various efforts the deaths and injuries sustained in road accidents do not seem to be reduced. In August 2016, a bill was introduced, proposing harsher penalties for traffic offences and requiring that automakers add safety features. It has passed the lower house of parliament and is expected to go through the upper house.
A significant step was taken by the High Court of Rajasthan when in the matter of MS Lodha vs CS Rajan, it directed the state to cancel the driver’s license of those who use a mobile phone while driving motor vehicles.
A bench comprising Justices Gopal Krishan Vyas and Ramchandra Singh Jhala, passed the order after the Additional Commissioner of Police (traffic) told the court that a substantial group of two-wheelers and four-wheeler drivers use a mobile phone while driving, which causes accidents and is a complete violation of laws that govern the road safety.
The Court said, “After considering the communication dated 26.04.2018 sent by the Addl. Police Commissioner, Traffic, Commissionerate, Jodhpur, we are of the opinion that the drivers of four and two-wheelers are usually using mobile while plying the vehicles, which is not permissible under the law. More so, due to said act of vehicle drivers, a number of accidents take place.”
The learned Bench further directed the State, in order to ensure that no one uses a mobile phone while driving. The traffic police shall take photographs of such violators and forward their credentials to the regional transport office and initiate proper proceedings for cancellation of driving licence.
The proceedings must be initiated strictly in accordance with law and after providing an opportunity of hearing, cancel the driving licence.
Need for such decisions
People who use mobile phones while driving has four times higher chance of meeting with an accident [World Health Organisation]. Such negligent drivers not only harm themselves but also injure and cost the lives of innocents, who, by no fault of their own, suffer grievous hurt. Accidents caused due to use of phones have taken a shot up across the world.
In 2016, at least 2138 lives were claimed by the use of mobile phones while driving. According to experts, this statistic is under reported as there is no recording or scientific investigation of these accidents.
The pandemic use of mobile phones was brought to the attention of the public when thirteen school going children died, when the school bus collided with a train, in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh. The students on the bus reported that the driver was talking on the phone while driving and claimed the life of thirteen innocents.
Transport minister Nitin Gadkari said last week, “People using a mobile phone and taking selfies while driving is increasingly posing a risk to themselves and others as well.” [Times of India]
Impact of the Order
If the state and the traffic police comply with the order of the court with due diligence and strict attitude, it is a step which would prove significant, if not sufficient, in reducing the number of lives which are claimed by the use of these phones. Cancelling the driver license of such offenders will not only be a lesson for those caught but also send a strong message to the other negligent drivers. The state must welcome the order of the court with open arms and see if necessary steps are taken up to ensure compliance with the order.
The existence of such offenders is not limited to the State of Rajasthan. Such perpetrators exist throughout the country and pose danger to others, not to mention themselves as well. Therefore every state can learn from the above order and instead of waiting and counting on the Courts to direct them, must come up with measures and regulations of their own in order to check the use of mobile phones while driving. Until and unless an initiative is taken, further improvements cannot be made.