Road crashes in India in the last one decade, have claimed over 13 lakh lives and permanently disabled over 60 lakh people. Unfortunately, as many as 80% of the road crash victims fail to receive emergency medical care within the critical first hour after the road crash. As per 201st Law Commission Report, 50% of the fatalities can be easily avoided if timely medical care is provided. According to the World Health Organization, bystanders play a very crucial role in saving lives in cases where established emergency medical services are absent.
Guidelines to safeguard Good Samaritans
It is very unfortunate that the fear of civil or criminal liability prevents people from stepping forward to help road crash victims. It is very important that the people who come ahead and assist the victims or the “Good Samaritans” receive protection from such liabilities.
In order to create an enabling legal environment, on March 30, 2016, the Supreme Court, through Article 141 of the Indian Constitution upheld guidelines for the protection of Good Samaritans.
The guidelines were issued in the public interest litigation of “SaveLIFE Foundation & Anr. Vs Union of India”. These guidelines together with the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) issued by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways protect the Good Samaritans from being hassled or harassed at hospitals, police stations or courts. This outlines the rights of the Good Samaritan with regard to hospitals, police and judiciary.
Some of crucial rights include voluntary disclosure of personal details to police and hospitals, protection from unnecessary detention and repeated questioning by the police, no compulsion for the Good Samaritan to serve as the eye-witness in the court and that the Good Samaritan cannot be compelled to pay for the admission or the treatment costs of the victim.
To know more about Good Samaritan Law click here.
Good Samaritan Judgment
SaveLIFE Foundation (SLF), a not-for-profit organisation which works to improve road safety and emergency medical care in India, pursued the cause of protection of Good Samaritans. A long journey was embarked upon to formalize these guidelines. SaveLIFE Foundation started by conducting a national survey. The survey was carried out in order to understand what stops the bystander to come ahead and help the road crash victim. Shockingly, the survey revealed that three out of four people hesitate to come forward to help the victim and 88% of them attributed it to fear of legal and procedural hassles like police intimidation and court appearances.
Members of Parliament also lent their support to SaveLIFE Foundation. Kirron Kher , a MP from Lok Sabha introduced a Private Member’s Bill for protection of Good Samaritans.
SaveLIFE Foundation garnered massive support from the public in a nationwide online campaign. More than 94,000 people supported the campaign to have a Good Samaritan Law.
On October 27, 2014, the Government of India finally filed an affidavit in support of the issue and published detailed guidelines in this regard on May 12, 2015.
On March 30, 2016, in a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court, through Article 141 of the Indian Constitution, made the guidelines for the protection of Good Samaritans binding all across India, in “SaveLIFE Foundation & Anr. Vs Union of India”.
What does the future hold
Since the Supreme Court’s ruling state government of Karnataka, Telangana, Rajasthan, Delhi and Goa have committed to state specific Good Samaritan Laws. The Karnataka State Legislative Assembly has already passed the Bill . It now awaits Presidential assent.
“The challenge at present is that even after two years of Good Samaritan judgement in place, there is no awareness on bystanders being protected by law, if they help a road crash victim. This awareness cannot come overnight. A consistent outreach program can help spread the message further among the masses.” – Piyush Tewari, Founder – SLF
To raise awareness on this issue, SaveLIFE Foundation has undertaken several print and radio campaigns.
The Good Samaritan Judgment is the stepping stone to set up an efficient emergency care framework.
The Logical Indian appreciates the efforts of SaveLIFE Foundation and hopes that emergency medical care is given to every road crash victim. It is very important that we ensure no life is lost due to lack of emergency medical care.