Transport unions from across India were scheduled to join a protest against the new penal law on hit-and-run cases at Jantar Mantar on Wednesday, January 3.
According to Kishan Verma, who is the president of the All Dilli Auto-Taxi Transport Congress Union, the government should have consulted the stakeholders before finalising these laws.
Verma said to a news agency, “We will hold a peaceful protest at Jantar Mantar. These laws have the power to ruin families and are akin to capital punishment. Drivers don’t hit and run over people deliberately. Sometimes they flee the spot due to the fear of getting attacked by the people. Transport unions from across the country will be joining the protest.”
Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh will also participate in the protest on Wednesday and will host another gathering at Rajghat on Thursday, 4 January.
Rajendra Soni of Delhi Auto Rickshaw Sangh said, “We will hold a peaceful gathering at Rajghat on Thursday. Unions cutting across party lines will be involved in these gatherings.”
Soni said they will be forced to go on a strike if a solution is not reached. He is also associated with the transport union of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh.
Truckers across the country have been protesting since Monday against the stringent provision under the recently enacted Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS). The provision imposes a punishment of up to 10 years or a fine of Rs 7 lakh if the driver flees in a hit-and-run case without informing the police.
The nationwide protest has also impacted supply of fuel as motorists formed long queues outside petrol stations, which triggered a panic-buying spree among motorists.
What is the new hit-and-run law?
The recently enacted Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita introduces stringent penalties for hit-and-run incidents in India. The law specifies that an accused individual causing a fatal crash and fleeing the scene without reporting to authorities could face imprisonment for up to 10 years along with a fine. Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita has established two distinct categories under the umbrella of “causing death by negligence.”
The first category addresses causing death through any rash or negligent act that does not amount to culpable homicide. Offenders in this category may face imprisonment for up to five years and a fine. The second category deals with causing death through rash and negligent driving, not amounting to culpable homicide. If the individual escapes without promptly reporting the incident to a police officer or magistrate, they could be subjected to up to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine.
Despite the law’s intentions, experts highlight the need for greater clarity on how an accused or driver should inform authorities, considering the potential risk of facing public anger at accident scenes. Additionally, safeguards are required to prevent potential misuse of this provision.
Road safety experts say that there is a need to define the type of evidence that will be accepted to authenticate claims by victims or accused individuals, preventing potential misuse.
What was the earlier hit-and-run law?
Previously, individuals accused in hit-and-run cases were tried under Section 304A of the Indian Penal Code, facing penalties of up to two years in jail upon identification. The introduction of the new Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita signifies a substantial shift toward more severe consequences for hit-and-run offenses in India.