"This Court has every responsibility to give appropriate directions, to safeguard the rights including the right to live as enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India as this Court is the guardian of fundamental rights of the citizens. When thousands of fellow citizens are being killed due to drunken driving, this Court cannot remain a silent spectator with folded hands and this Court has to travel beyond its jurisdiction to pass novel, unconventional and remedial directions as a Constitutional Court to protect fundamental rights of citizens in the interest of the society."
The Madras High Court has issued a slew of general directions to curb the menace of drunken driving by observing strict compliance of the Motor Vehicles Act and ensuring that the perpetrators are brought to books.
The 'remedial directions' have been passed by a division comprising of Justice N Kirubakaran and Justice Abdul Quddhose, in a motor vehicle appeal seeking enhancement of compensation.
While allowing the appeal preferred by a Chennai resident Manikandan, who had been "crippled as a vegetable" by a drunken driver, the bench decided to delve into the broader arena of preventing such accidents altogether.
"Though the issue before this Court is with regard to quantum of compensation awarded to the appellant, the issue about drunken driving arises for consideration as contended by the Insurance Company. This Court cannot close its eyes and mechanically decide the quantum of compensation alone without addressing the main cause for the accident and consequently this case. This Court is bound to go into the basic reason for the cause and has a duty to issue remedial direction…," it observed.
The court impleaded the Union of India and concerned State authorities, directing them to comply with the following directions:
The court however cautioned the authorities to implement the appropriate legal provisions regarding drunken driving only in order to prevent the same. "The police should not take advantage of the directions given and harass motorists for this unjust enrichment," the court remarked.
It also directed the respondent authorities to file a report giving the details of number of cases filed for drunken driving and number of persons arrested every calendar month in the first week of succeeding month.
Inter alia, the court observed that the police often, as also in the present case, failed to conduct the breathalyzer test of the suspected drivers, allowing them to scot free fearlessly. In this backdrop the bench directed the Police to take drunken drivers to labs to test alcohol content in the blood to comply with the provisions of Section 185 of Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.
"If there is a suspicion that a person is under the influence of alcohol or he was smelling alcohol at the time of accident, the accused drunken driver has to be sent compulsorily to hospital where blood samples have to be taken to detect the contents of the alcohol to verify as to whether the contents of alcohol exceed 30 mg per 100 ml or not or test by breathalyser compulsorily so that the prosecution could succeed in the case filed against the drivers for drunken driving u/s 185 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, apart from u/s.184 for dangerous driving and under Section 279 of IPC," the bench directed.
The court also suggested that the licences of drunken drivers should be cancelled or suspended or they should be disqualified from holding driving licence, to deter the drivers from indulging in drunken driving.
"Not only prosecuting the offenders for drunken driving, the transport department should also simultaneously take steps to suspend or cancel the driving licence given to the offenders under the Motor Vehicles Act as stated above. Otherwise, the great danger which is threatening the humanity everyday cannot be contained," the court said.
In the case at hand, having found that the Appellant's right side had been paralyzed due to brain injury, the court observed that he may not be in a position to work at all and therefore, there is loss of 100% earning power on account of the disability sustained by him.
In view thereof, the court ordered that the compensation payable to the Appellant be enhanced from Rs.4,37,920/-, as awarded by the Tribunal, to Rs.67,35,000/- along with interest.
The matter will now be taken for filing first compliance report on April 6, 2020.
Case Title: Manikandan v. P.Palani & Ors.
Case No.: CMA No. 470/2018
Quorum: Justice N Kirubakaran and Justice Abdul Quddhose
Appearance: Advocate Y Jayanthi Basker (for Appellant); Advocate S. Manohar (for Insurance Company); Assistant Solicitor General G. Karthikeyan (for Union of India); Govt. Advocate Jayaprakash Narayanan (for State)
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