'Get tough with drunk driving'

Instances of rich and powerful drunk drivers going berserk on our roads are becoming too frequent. Only last month a young drunk woman Noorie had killed two persons in Mumbai. Two drunk Iranian women had slapped a traffic policeman  in Bangalore. Sanjeev Nanda, former Naval Chief’s grandson, rammed into a police picket in Delhi in January 1999 and killed half a dozen people. He was sentenced to five-year imprisonment. Film star Salman Khan ran over a pedestrian while allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol in September 2002. In 2009 a drunken driver Karthik Somaiah dashed his vehicle into a group of morning walkers in Bangalore, killing five.

Causing death by rash and negligent driving attracts Sec 304 (A) IPC, for which the maximum jail term is two years. The police treat cases of causing death due to drunken driving as culpable homicide not amounting to murder which attracts Sec 304 IPC where the punishment can be 10-year jail term. However, it is very difficult to get conviction under this section of law. In Sanjeev Nanda case, even though the trial court convicted him for Sec 304 IPC, the Delhi high court acquitted him of this section only up holding the conviction for 304 (A) IPC giving two-year jail term.

Imprisonment rare

As per the current laws, if a drunken driver is booked by police he is fined up to Rs 2,000. If he repeats this offence within three years, he can be sent to prison for six months. However, cases of sending drunken drivers to prison are very rare. Many drivers don’t mind paying fine.

In foreign countries if a person is booked for drunken driving, his licence can be suspended. In our country suspension of driving licences is an exception. Even if the licence is suspended, there are any numbers of drivers who don’t hesitate to drive without a licence. It is therefore necessary that stringent laws need to be enacted to curb drunken driving.

If any person is found to drive under the influence of alcohol, he should be kept under detention at least for a day. His photographs and particulars of his offence should be publicised in the media so that he is shamed into not driving drunk. If a person is caught for drunken driving for a second time, he should be imprisoned at least for a period of one month.

Secondly, a new provision needs to be incorporated in the Indian Penal Code to equate causing death due to drunken driving as culpable homicide, fixing the penalty as a jail term for 10 years. Only if such stringent laws are enacted, people will refrain from driving after consuming alcohol. It is also seen that such cases take too long a time in trials. There is a need to have fast track courts, exclusively for such cases.

It is also necessary that public opinion is generated against drunken driving. In foreign countries a person who consumes alcohol never drives. If a couple attends a party, either the husband or the wife consumes alcohol so that the sober person can drive back home. Wives and children should pressurise their family members not to drive drunk. Places which serve liquor should make arrangements to send home drunken persons in taxis.

During this new year’s eve many hotels in Bangalore sent home their drunken customers in taxis. This can be regular feature. Similarly, if any drunken person tries to drive his vehicle, management of the club or bar can note down the vehicle number and tip off the traffic police.

It is seen that the persons who become victims of drunken drivers are either policemen or pedestrians. It is necessary that families of these victims are given adequate compensation of at least Rs 20 lakh and this amount should be recovered from the driver concerned. It is high time society comes down heavily on drunken driving.

(The writer is DGP, CID, Bangalore)

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