Relief for mishap victims as SC upholds Good Samaritan law

30 March 2016

The Supreme Court today approved a union government notification that provides protection to good Samaritans who help victims of road accidents by taking them to a hospital or reporting the incident.

Passers-by in India are often unwilling to help accident victims for fear of getting involved with police and red tape. Now a bench headed by Justice V Gopala Gowda has approved the notification that also provides protection to witnesses in road accident cases, who should no longer have to face a harrowing experience.

With the top court's approval, the government guidelines have become law and all states will be bound by it.

On 12 May 2015, the ministry of road transport and highways had issued a notification after the SC asked it to come up with suitable guidelines to prevent harassment of Good Samaritans.

The SC order came on a public interest litigation filed by the non-profit Savelife Foundation, which said more than four lakh road accidents took place in 2014. The number of deaths also increased from 1.37 lakh in 2013 to 1.39 lakh in 2014.

A bystander, including an eyewitness to a road mishap, shall be allowed to leave immediately after taking the injured to the nearest hospital without furnishing his address. Police cannot compel people to reveal their identity even if they are the informers or complainants in the case. The person can give his or her name voluntarily.

The SC order incorporates the centre's guidelines stating that all registered public and private hospitals will not detain a Good Samaritan or demand payment for registration and admission costs.

No police official shall ask him or her any questions and he would be later given a choice to record his statement before the court through video conferencing. Departmental or disciplinary action shall be initiated against the officer who coerces or intimidates the informer.

If the witness volunteers to go before the court to depose in the case, the trial judge shall complete his examination in one sitting.

Earlier, additional solicitor general Pinky Anand had submitted before the top court that it was not possible for the centre to issue a mandate to the states as under the Constitution, law and order is a state subject.

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