The Good Samaritan Law-one that is prevalent in many western countries- aims to curb the loss of lives during the precious, irredeemable minutes immediately after road accidents. One of the most important duty of any witness of a road accident is to drop everything and rush the victims to the nearest hospital ensuring that lives are not unnecessarily lost to time. But often people shy away from doing the humane thing in order to avoid the hassles of dealing with bureaucratic authorities. This Good Samaritan Law is essential not only to reward chivalry but to ensure no hindrance to these good samaritans.
The busy and bustling capital of the country suffers from a large number of road accidents that almost go unnoticed due to their frequency of occurrence. In 2015, 8085 accidents had taken place in the capital, in which 1622 people lost their lives.
A Delhi-based taxi operator named Suraj Prakash Vaid has transported over 70 road accident victims to the hospital in the last 30 years. For his travails he has had to attend numerous court hearings as a witness.
On Friday, the Delhi Cabinet made a pioneering decision to assure a 2000 rupees reward to people who come to the aid of victims of road accidents by ensuring their timely admittance into a hospital. An appreciative certificate will also be given to recognise the efforts of the citizen.
The road that lead to the breakthrough:
India has grappled with a Good Samaritan law for a long time and in March 2016 the Supreme Court approved guidelines issued by the centre for protection of the Good Samaritan at the hands of police or any other officials. A bench comprising justices V. Gopala Gowda and Arun Mishra directed the Centre to give wide publicity to the guidelines, which clearly stipulate that people who help victims of road accidents or other calamities are not harassed in any way.
The Union Road Transport Ministry has added a significant clause under which a Good Samaritan’s affidavit will have the legal force of a statement. If a statement is required, it should be recorded in a single examination. This is applicable only to those who want to be witnesses, for the guidelines say the police should not compel them to disclose their particulars or to be witnesses.
The contributions of SLF:
This approval by the Supreme Court was the direct result of a PIL filed in 2012 by SaveLIFE Foundation(SLF), an independent non-profit NGO based in Delhi. The foundation has committed its cause to improving road safety and emergency medical care across India and has extensively campaigned for the same over the past several years.
On the basis of a national study conducted by it, the foundation submits that three out of four people in India hesitated to come forward and help road accident victims, and that 88% of them had attributed this hesitation to fear of legal and procedural hassles. “These hassles include intimidation by police, unnecessary detention at hospitals and prolonged legal formalities,” it elaborates.
Karnataka’s exemplar GSL:
Karnataka has lead the way in drafting an actual Good Samaritan Law and will be the first state in the country to have an elaborate law to protect its good samaritans. The bill titled “Karnataka Good Samaritan and Medical Professional (Protection and Regulation during Emergency Situations)” will soon be tabled in the legislative assembly.
The Law Minister T B Jayachandra said that under the proposed legislation, Rs 5 crore has been earmarked for payment towards expenses incurred by Good Samaritans.
Road accidents in India:
According to a report in 2006 by the Law Commision of India, at least 50% of the deaths caused by road accidents can be prevented by administering medical attention to the victims within the critical first hour. On of the biggest reasons why people hold back to help a victim is the fear of getting embroiled in a police investigation. This is where legal protection offered by a Good Samaritan Law becomes quintessential to the safety of citizens.
According to SLF, in 2015, about one and a half lakh people were killed and five lakh were injured as a result of road accidents. This number is not only the highest that India has ever recorded in history, but it represents a 53.9% increase over the last decade, and nearly a tenfold increase since 1970.
Initiatives and incentives like the ones offered by the governments of Karnataka and Delhi encourage people to do the right thing and extend help to road accident victims. These reforms are much appreciated and necessary in a bureaucracy like India where people are afraid of having to deal with authorities.
The Logical Indian has always been supportive of the efforts of SaveLIFE Foundation(SLF) and is extremely appreciative of the new move by the Delhi Government as well as the impending legislation by the Karnataka Government. You can read about our efforts on the issue here: