Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: V.M. Deshpande, J., quashed the trial court’s Judgment convicting the applicant herein for the offences punishable under Sections 279 (rash driving or riding on a public way) and 304-A (causing death by negligence) IPC. The order of the Ad-hoc Additional Sessions Judge was also set aside whereby he confirmed the trial court’s Judgment.

As per the prosecution, the applicant, a driver with Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation, was driving the offending bus which knocked down a 6-year old girl. The incident was reported, and the applicant was tried and convicted as aforesaid. He challenged his conviction but the appeal was dismissed by the Ad-hoc Additional Sessions Judge. Aggrieved thereby, the applicant filed the present revision application. His defence throughout was that he was not driving the offending bus at the time of the incident.

The High Court stated: “It was open for the prosecution to obtain the relevant record from the depot to which the applicant was attached, to show that at the relevant time the applicant was driving the offending vehicle. Further, it was obligatory on the part of the prosecution to prove those documents. In the present case, that has not been done. On the contrary, the learned lower appellate Court, it appears that, dismissed the appeal on the basis of unproved documents.” In the Court’s opinion, the evidence available was not sufficient to conclusively prove that the applicant was driving the offending bus. He was found entitled to benefit of doubt. Resultantly, the Court quashed his conviction and also set aside the First Appellate Court’s order mentioned above. [Sudhir v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 558, decided on 02-04-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In pursuance of the order dated 26.08.2016 on the issue relating to inadequate punishment under Section 304-A IPC, Mukul Rohatgi, the Attorney General submitted that Section 304-A covers all kinds of deaths by negligence and, therefore, mere providing of higher punishment may not sub-serve the cause of justice. Elaborating further, he said that when a broken wall falls and someone gets injured or a person dies, Section 304-A is also attracted.

The Attorney General also submitted that some people drive while putting their mobile phones in the ears as a consequence of which disastrous consequences take place and the effect is the person gets into misery or he causes miseries to others. It was further mentioned that sometimes, people who drive while using mobile phone are booked under Section 184 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 which provides for imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months or with fine which may extend to Rs. 1000 in case of commission of offence for the first time. He submitted that the said provision is not sufficient for adequate handelling of the situation in praesenti and asked the Court to list the matter on 06.12.2016.

Showing grave concern over the vehicular accidents that extinguish the life-spark of many because of the whim and fancy, adventurism of the men at the wheel and harbouring of the notion that they are “larger than life”, the Court said that it is a matter of common knowledge that the drivers drive because of their profession but there are individuals who drive the vehicle because of their uncontrolled propensity for adventure. They really do not care for the lives of others. It can be stated with certitude that the number of vehicles in the country has increased in geometrical manner and the people are in a competition to pick up the speed.

The Bench of Dipak Misra and C. Nagappan, JJ had asked the Attorney general to assist the Court and had said that Section 304-A IPC requires to have a re-look because the punishment provided therein is absolutely inadequate in the context of the modern day. [Abdul Sharif v. State of Haryana, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 865, decided on 21.09.2016]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Deciding on the matter of whether the crime registered under Section 304-A of Penal Code, 1860 can be quashed on the basis of compromise arrived at by the legal heir/legal representative of the victim/deceased, with the offender, the two judge bench comprising of Mahesh Grover and Lisa Gill, JJ., observed that to quash the proceedings under Section 304-A solely on the basis of a settlement or compromise arrived at between the accused and the legal representatives is not permissible and militates against all canons of justice. It was further said that in the case under Section 304-A IPC the victim is obviously not present to settle the matter and hence, to permit a legal representative or legal heir to compromise or settle the matter is indeed an invitation to a dangerous trend and cannot be permitted.

Rejecting the contention that the offence under Section 304-A IPC is private in nature, the Court observed that, to consider that an offence under Section 304-A is private in nature is wholly incorrect and it is an offence which impacts society as a whole, permeating to the very core.

The Court further held that undoubtedly, there is a distinction between the power of the Court to compound an offence under Section 320 Cr. P.C. and quashing of criminal proceedings in exercise of power under Section 482 Cr. P.C. It is trite to mention that the power of the High Court under Section 482 Cr. P.C. can nevertheless be exercised in appropriate matters where it is felt that a prima facie case is not made out in consonance with the settled principles of law. (Baldev Singh v. State of Punjab, 2016 SCC OnLine P&H 4509, Decided on  02.06.2016).