Supreme Court Issues Directions for Road Safety in India

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December 01, 2017

In this recent verdict pronounced yesterday, two-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta have issued a slew of directions for road safety and prevention of road accidents in India.

In the case Dr. S. Rajaseekaran v. Union of India , the Petitioner had prayed for enforcement of road safety norms and appropriate treatment of accident victims. The Court in the case took note of acute loss of life and limbs caused by road accidents. The Petitioner in the case also stated that practical measures need to be taken in a time-bound and expeditious manner to give effect to legislation, reports and recommendations for ensuring that the loss of lives due to road accidents was minimized.

The Amicus curaie appointed in the case also highlighted huge loss of lives due to road accidents every year. It was reported that as per statistics almost one person dies due to road accident in every three minutes in India.

Directions Issued by the Bench

Road Safety Policy: States that have not formulated Road Safety Policy namely, Assam, Nagaland, Tripura, Delhi, Lakshadweep, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Andaman and Nicobar Islands, must now formulate the Road Safety Policy by 31st January, 2018. All States and Union Territories are expected to implement the Road Safety Policy with all due earnestness and seriousness.

State Road Safety Council: The Union Territories of Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Andaman and Nicobar Islands have not constituted the Road Safety Council as yet. Such UT’s have been directed to constitute the State Road Safety Council on or before 31st January, 2018. The responsibility and functions of the Council will be as recommended by the Committee on Road Safety. The State Road Safety Councils should periodically review the laws and take appropriate remedial steps wherever necessary.

Lead Agency: Only a few States have established the Lead Agency as recommended by the Committee on Road Safety. The States and Union Territories that have not done so should establish the Lead Agency on or before 31st January, 2018 in terms of the recommendations made by the Committee on Road Safety. It may be mentioned that the Lead Agency will act as the Secretariat of the State Road Safety Council and coordinate all activities such as licensing issues including issues of driving licences, registration of vehicles, road safety and features of vehicles, along with other allied matters including emission norms and other activities as mentioned in the communication.

Road Safety Fund: Those States and Union Territories that have not yet established the Road Safety Fund should do so not later than 31st March, 2018 and report back to the Committee on Road Safety. The corpus of the Road Safety Fund will be from the fines collected for traffic violations and the Fund will be utilized for meeting expenses relating to road safety.

Road Safety Action Plan: The purpose of a Road Safety Action Plan is to reduce the number of road accidents, as well as the fatality rate. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has already requested all the States and UT’s to prepare a Road Safety Action Plan but it appears that the response to this has been somewhat lukewarm. The State Governments and Union Territories have been directed to urgently prepare a Road Safety Action Plan by 31st March, 2018 and put it into action after giving it due publicity.

District Road Safety Committee: A District Road Safety Committee is required to be set up by the State Government for every district. The MoRTH, the District Road Safety Committee should be put in place by 31st January, 2018 and should be headed by the Collector of the District and should include amongst others the Superintendent of Police, Health Officers, Engineers of the Public Works Department, representatives of the National Highways Authority of India, the Road Transport Officer of the District and members of civil society from the District. The District Road Safety Committee must hold regular and periodic meetings to review road safety issues and take corrective measures.

Engineering Improvement: That MoRTH should publish a protocol for identification and rectification of black spots and take necessary steps for improving the design of roads to make them safe.

Traffic Calming Measures: That traffic calming measures must be adopted at accident prone areas.

Road Safety Audits: There is agreement, in principle, between the learned Amicus and the MoRTH to carry out Road Safety Audits. However, there appears to be a dearth of qualified auditors in Road Safety Engineering. The MoRTH supports the idea of capacity building. That necessary steps be taken by the Committee on Road Safety as well as by the MoRTH to work in this direction since there can be little doubt that an audit of road safety is essential to reduce the possibility of road accidents through corrective measures.

Engineering Design of New Roads: That the Road Safety Audit as mentioned above should include the design stage audit of new road projects of 5 kms or more, rather than being based on the cost of the project.

Working Group on Engineering: The recommendations of the Working Group should be implemented in the terms prayed for by the learned Amicus as well as those accepted by the MoRTH. These will, of course, be in the nature of interim directions since the National Road Safety Board is likely to be created as proposed in the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2017.

Drivers’ Training: This is the subject matter of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2017 and no orders are required to be passed in this regard.

Lane Driving: The MoRTH has already issued Motor Vehicles (Driving) Regulations, 2017 and the Notification should be implemented by the State Governments and Union Territories strictly.

Road Safety Equipment: The Bureau of Police Research and Training has already prepared a Report on the subject and has submitted it to the Road Safety Committee. The recommendations in the Report should be implemented including acquisition of cameras and surveillance equipments in detecting traffic and identifying violators. It is also necessary to set up special patrol forces along the National Highways and State Highways for which necessary steps must be taken by the State Governments and Union Territories.

Alcohol and Road Safety: The MoRTH has already written to the States to comply with orders of this Court in this regard. The MoRTH may issue further advisories in this regard on a quarterly basis during the calendar year 2018 so as to serve as a reminder to the State Governments and Union Territories to implement the directions of this Court.

Road Safety Education: That the State Governments may seriously consider the recommendation of incorporating road safety education and counselling in the curriculum by the State Boards which shall include Road Safety Education and Counseling as a part of the school curriculum at the earliest.

Speed Governors: Guidelines in this regard have already been issued by the MoRTH. The MoRTH has agreed to upload the Unique Identification Number of the speed governors in the VAHAN database. This should be followed up by the MoRTH with expedition.

Emergency Medical Care: There is agreement that at least one Trauma Care Centre should be set up in every district with necessary facilities and an ambulance. The State Governments and Union Territories should take up this recommendation at the earliest since it is on record that treatment soon after a road accident is crucial for saving the life of the victim. In this context, it may also be mentioned that this Court has issued directions in Pt. Parmanand Katara v. Union of India which should be followed.

Universal Accident Helpline Number: The MoRTH has stated that there is already a call centre number, that is, 108 provided by the National Health Mission. Due publicity must be given to this so that an ambulance can be activated at the earliest whenever necessary.

Permanent Road Safety Cell: The State Governments and Union Territories should establish Permanent Road Safety Cells by 31st January, 2018.

Data Collection: The MoRTH has already taken steps for recording accident data and reports through computerised data entry. The State and Union Territories have been asked to take further action in this regard and make the data public for the information of all stakeholders. This needs to be followed up and no further orders are necessary in this regard. The MoRTH may assist the State Governments and Union Territories to ensure that to the maximum extent possible and within the shortest time frame, location tracking devices must be fitted in all public service vehicles as notified.

Crash Test: This too has been notified by the MoRTH and the test for all light motor vehicles is required to be conducted by the testing agency notified under Rule 126 of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989.

The matter has been next listed for hearing on February 7th, 2018.