& Archaic Laws
. Need for Change
By Maxwell Pereira
I remember being told stories about the first car rolling into
Mangalore - my hometown in South India, in the very first decade
of the early 1900s. Owned by the philanthropist entrepreneur the
late PFX Saldanha who later presented this 'De Dion' car to the
local St. Aloysius' College Museum in 1956, it is still available
there for all to feast their eyes on. For those who cannot really
transport themselves to distant Mangalore, the car can be viewed
at http://www.staloysius.ac.in - the college website.
stories floated around then on this 'earth shattering' event,
is also the one about how the whole town assembled at the city
centre to watch this venerable soul demonstrate his skill in handling
his new prized possession. Apparently the eager crowds had to
ultimately go home disappointed when Saldanha took off and never
returned because the mechanic had forgotten to teach him how to
switch off the engine. It is said the car had to be ferried back
into town from a neighbourhood hillock in the city's Gurpur suburbs
where it had come to rest when its fuel was exhausted - transported
atop a bullock cart!
of bullock carts, it was just that and horse carriages alone that
were available in India then for the super gentry and the high
and mighty. That is, till 1897, when the first car in India rolled
majestically into the cobbled streets of Bombay - its proud owner,
a Mr Foster - an employee of the Greeves Cotton and Company. Four
years later, Jamshedji Tata became the first Indian to own a car.
when the Indian Penal Code was enacted in 1861, there were no
motor vehicles in India. And I read somewhere a mention that the
penal sections for rash and negligent driving got framed in 1870
no substantiation of this I could find, though) - a good
three decades before the advent of the motorcar in India. The
much-in-the-news section 304-A IPC meant to bring to book those
causing death due to rash and negligent driving was indeed meant
to catch up then only with carriages - be it horse drawn or bullock
even in this - my colleague participating in the 'Big Fight' debate
recently on a TV channel was quick to point out, is the naked
fact that the IPC of 1861 was a creation of the British who were
the rulers then and were perhaps the only ones with means to own
a vehicle that could commit an accident. And hence, protecting
their own interests, ensured that causing injury or death due
to accident remains not too serious an offence, bailable, and
that too with a nominal punishment.
then, even though the punishment prescribed is up to two years'
rigorous imprisonment, one hardly ever comes across any jail sentence.
More often than not, the punishment is a nominal fine - ranging
maybe between Rs 200 to 2000. The records of the Motor Vehicle
Tribunals reflect a victim profile heavily tilted towards the
poor, and correspondingly one can imagine it is not a big deal
for the rich to pay the nominal fine which in most cases is perhaps
not a fraction of what they really may be spending on their lawyer
who fights the case.
many as 1842 people died on Delhi roads in 2001 and another around
10,000 or more routinely suffered injuries in road accidents.
In 2002 till now the toll are 1377 Deaths and 6311 injured. All
of who are victims of and whose cases are dealt with under the
glorious and miraculously surviving 19th century law that still
reigns supreme in the 21st century. A law that perhaps treats
drunken driving with no more severity than entails ticket-less
travelling or other petty offences. A law that helps perpetuate
un-equal treatment despite Constitutional guarantees. A law that
perhaps remains not changed because the rich benefit from its
there a case for some serious introspection on this score?
to change the law and make it more stringent, and the punishment
more severe and commensurate with the gravity of an offence of
rash and negligent act resulting in death by use of a mechanically
powered motor vehicle, vis a vis the existing law that was meant
only for animal powered vehicles
words: dated 24.08.2004.
Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002.
You can interact with the author at http://
www.maxwellperira.com and email@example.com
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