The Centre was actively considering a proposal to enhance punishment in drunk driving cases by amending IPC sections 304 A (causing death by negligence) and 279 (rash and negligent driving), the Bombay High Court was told today.
"The process is on for the approval of the Government in this regard," according to a letter written by Union Ministry of Home Affairs on August 8 to the Central Government lawyer.
The letter was placed today before a bench headed by Justice Abhay Oka which was hearing a public interest litigation filed by senior journalist Nikhil Wagle, seeking compensation from Bollywood superstar Salman Khan for the victims of the 2002 hit-and-run case involving the actor.
Although the actor has already deposited compensation to be paid to the families of the victims as directed by the High Court, the petition is still being heard by the HC which has extended its scope to seek enhancement of punishments in accident cases.
The court had earlier suggested the Centre to consider amending IPC sections so as to make drunk driving a more serious offence. It also asked the Maharashtra Government to consider amending Motor Vehicles Act to enhace punishment in such cases.
The Centre had earlier informed the High Court that it had sought suggestions from the State Governments on amending section 279 IPC (rash and negligent driving) to enhance punishment in such cases.
Jaiprakash Agarwal, Joint Secretary (Home), Union Government, stated in his affidavit that the Law Commission had recommended modification of sections 304 A and 279 IPC to include drunk driving as a serious offence. The process had already begun and it will come up before the cabinet.
The maximum punishment for offence under Indian Penal Code(IPC) sections 304 A is two years or fine or both and for Section 279 it is imprisonment for 6 months or fine or both.
The matter has been adjourned to October 19 for further hearing. Khan's vehicle, allegedly driven by him, rammed into a bakery at suburban Bandra on September 28, 2002, killing one person and injuring four. The actor was convicted on May 6 by a sessions court which awarded him five year jail term on the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. He has filed an appeal in the Bombay High Court which is pending.