Indian Penal Code: Sec. 304a (death by negligence)
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Delhi, 2017: Convictions are rare
Govt Think Tank Finds In Study
After a study of deaths due to negligence in the capital, the Dialogue and Development Commission, a think tank of the Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi Government, found that a shockingly low 0.95% of cases registered in such incidents had ended in conviction. Having submitted its report to chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, DDC pointed out that since death due to negligence is a non-compoundable offence, the closure of cases without proper investigation was illegal.
The panel found a large number of cases were terminated by police because the families of the victims were not interested in pursuing them. However, being non-compoundable offences, or those where complainants cannot drop charges through compromises, closing such cases is not legally valid.
DDC studied 1,365 cases registered under Section 304A of the Indian Penal Code (causing death by negligence, not amounting to culpable homicide), of which 1,040 were related to deaths in road accidents and the remaining 325 to deaths arising from negligence at workplaces.Common instances under this section are car accidents, electrocution, falling into manholes, fires and mishaps at construction sites.
“In 580 of the 1,365 incidents, we found that the accused could not be identified or traced, leading to closure of cases,“ said DDC vice-chairman Ashish Khetan. “Only 580 cases went to trial, of which 111 cases resulted in acquittals and only a paltry 13 cases led to conviction. Trial in 457 cases is still pending and police investigation is under way in 13 cases.“ The status in 30 cases is unknown, 161 were struck down by police and three were quashed by the courts.
Saying that the high rate of acquittals reflected “extremely shoddy“ and “corrupt and comprised“ police investigation, the commission suggested to the state government that it should discuss the report with the union home affairs and road and surface transport ministries and the chief justice of Delhi high court.
Khetan said that Delhi Police kept neither centralised data of the cases registered under Section 304A nor of convictions, acquittals or appeals. “When we filed an RTI asking Delhi Police to provide us information about cases registered under this section since 2001, police replied that they did not maintain any such record,“ the report said. “We were instead told to go from police station to police station to gather the required information.“
DDC did visit 19 police stations in the districts of New Delhi, Southeast Delhi, South Delhi, Shahdara and North-East Delhi and noted that in most of them, the records were maintained in a register and not in digital form.In all police stations, it found such registers in poor condition, the pages crumbling, the ink fading, and the entries hopelessly incomplete.
The panel has recommended that police personnel investigating accidents due to negligence need to be trained and their accountability fixed. “Every acquittal should be scrutinised and the reasons for failure of justice be identified and remedial measures taken,“ the report advised.DDC also suggested use of technology to prevent road mishaps as well as strict action against traffic violators.