Protection of Good Samaritans in accident cases: SC

Ipsita Mishra

People race against time driving through packed city roads with horns on. Speed barriers and traffic rules hardly matter now a days and the result is accidents. The courts tend to adopt a generous attitude to good Samaritans and, in such a case, would take into account the emergency nature of the situation and attendant circumstances – including the skills of the Good Samaritan – in determining whether the actions of the Good Samaritan were reasonable. Good Samaritans are protected under civil liability in common law jurisdictions.

The Supreme Court has decided to give protection to good Samaritans rendering assistance to accident victims. Suggestions have been taken from the National Highways Authority of India, government and others for framing guidelines. It is implementation and not insufficiency of law that is the matter of concern. Different guidelines like emergency care, handling trauma patients, correct directions to hospitals on the highways etc are not implemented although issued. Save Life Foundation, NGO, filed a public interest writ petition demanding that the person helping to bring the victim to hospital should not be compelled to visit police station neither his identity should be revealed. He should not be pestered to become a witness or join investigation even. However according to Additional Solicitor General, this plea would require an amendment to laws which only the legislature could bring in and any directions towards the same is beyond the provisions of the law. Justice Swatanter Kumar told the ASG that merely laying the road is not enough and NHAI needs to play an active role. Counsel for the parties said an expert committee would need to be constituted to monitor compliance with various directions and safeguards which will help the passers-by and informants in and in expeditious disposal of criminal cases.  They told the court that they would come out with joint suggestions. The Bench said this aspect will be examined by counsel appearing for the parties who are to submit the joint suggestions.”

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Law for the savior: initiation of Good Samaritan law in India

Shatrunjay Bose

It was only a recent shock for our country when a 23 year old rape victim injured and laid naked along with her friend on the busy streets our capital New Delhi in the chilling month of December. They were wounded badly and cried helplessly from several passerby and vehicles but to their misfortune no one stopped to help them.

But currently in India it is often filled with risks to rescue a victim as the good Samaritan because that person would be summoned by the police station many times even during odd hours for interrogation and hospitals, refusing to take in accident victims because of chances of getting dragged in a medico-legal case so it will be the burden of the Samaritan to proof that he rescued rather being involved in the incident.  No person would prefer to be in that position

The Supreme Court said that guidelines would be framed after going through recommendations of a high level committee that will exclusively protect the Good Samaritan from who had rendered assistance to accident victims to protect them from social and legal harassment.

The Committee which recommended it was headed by a retired judge of the Delhi High Court. The judge would also suggest remedies to provide timely help to road mishap victims with concerns to growing number of accidents and helpless victims dying on the road.

Though in December 2012 a retired judge of the Delhi High Court, V S Agrawal was appointed to head the committee but the Additional Solicitor General Siddharth Luthra said that justice Agrawal has opted out due to health problems, So the bench said it would consider the appointment of some other judge and until the appointment is done the other members of the panel would carry forward the work of the Commission.

According to a bench consisting of Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi stated that the Committee would be going through two writ petitions,  which was filed by  Save Life Foundation, an  NGO  and another writ by an individual S Rajaseekaran before stating its final recommendation.

The panel of the Committee comprises of many important appointments like secretaries of the union ministries of Home, Health, Road Transport and Law and Justice or their nominees, chief of AIIMS trauma centre, Director General of Border Road Organization, secretary of Save Life Foundation and a nominee of St John Ambulance, an aid and ambulance wing of the Indian Red Cross.

Human life is very precious and losing near and dear ones is one of the toughest things any person can suffer. Denying help to a dying person is a clear violation of article 21 of the constitution as the unjust dying could have been prevented but because of unfortunate circumstances, currently a person has to pass through a lot of trouble to help a victim.

The PILs filed are requesting the Centre to initiate a mechanism and a systematic pathway to provide quick medical help to road accident victims.

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