Driving slow but recklessly amounts to ‘rash and negligent driving’: Kerala HC [Read Order]

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The Kerala High Court on Friday held that driving vehicle in a reckless and negligent manner even if it is done at a low speed, would still amount to ‘rash and negligent driving’ under Section 279 of the Indian Penal Code.

A Division Bench of Justice Anil K Narendran and Justice PG Ajithkumar held so in a matter taken up by the Court suo motu on the basis of reports from a Sabarimala devotee that rash and negligent driving of tractors used along the trekking path, was threatening the safety of the pilgrims.

The Court placed reliance on the Supreme Court judgement in Ravi Kapur v. State of Rajasthan in which it was held that rash and negligent driving has to be examined in the light of the facts and circumstances of a given case.

Going by said decision, the Court held that if a person is driving quite slowly but recklessly, it could still amount to ‘rash and negligent driving’ as per Section 279 of the IPC.

” A person who drives a vehicle on the road is liable to be held responsible for the act as well as for the result. It may not be always possible to determine with reference to the speed of a vehicle whether a person was driving rashly and negligently. Both these acts presuppose an abnormal conduct. Even when one is driving a vehicle at a slow speed but recklessly and negligently, it would amount to ‘rash and negligent driving’ within the meaning of the language of Section 279 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860,” the Court said.

Moreover, the Court noted that the doctrine of reasonable care imposes an obligation or a duty upon a person (for example a driver) to care for pedestrians on the road and this duty attains a higher degree when the pedestrian happens to be a child of tender age.

“It is axiomatic to say that while driving a vehicle on a public way, there is an implicit duty cast on the drivers to see that their driving does not endanger the life of the right users of the road, may be either vehicular users or pedestrians. They are expected to take sufficient care to avoid danger to others,” the Court underscored.

In the instant case, the Court directed the Deputy Superintendent of Police and Station House Officer (Sannidhanam & Pamba) to take necessary steps to ensure that the movement of tractors through the trekking path, even in case of emergency, does not pose any threat to the safety of pilgrims.

The Court noted that by way of orders passed in 2016 and 2017, it had permitted the movement of tractors for transporting goods from Pamba to Sannidhanam by stakeholders other than Travancore Devaswom Board at night and in case of emergency, from noon to 3:00 pm as well, subject to the satisfaction of the emergency situation before the Special Sabarimala Commissioner.

Pertinently, by in November this year, the Court had issued an order prohibiting the movement of devotees, Devaswom Officials, Police personnel, etc. in tractors used for transportation of goods through trekking path. The same has to be implemented by all, in letter and spirit, the Court said.

The Court opined that it is for the respondents to ensure strict compliance of its previous orders.

The counsel for the State gave an undertaking regarding the same to ensure that there is no threat to the safety of the pilgrims and that the movement of tractors through the trekking path will be done with the least possible inconvenience to devotees.

The Court directed the concerned police authorities to take necessary steps to ensure that the movement of tractors through the trekking path does not cause any threat to the safety of the pilgrims.

“Respondents shall take necessary steps to ensure that there is no threat to the safety of the pilgrims on account of transportation of goods in tractors through the trekking path and that, any movement of tractors through trekking path even in case of extreme emergency causes only least inconvenience to the devotees,” the Court stated in its order.

Read Order here

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