IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
|NAME OF THE CASE||SAVELIFE FOUNDATION & ANR. V. UNION OF INDIA & ANR.|
|CITATION||Writ petition (C) No. 235 of 2012|
|DATE OF THE JUDGEMENT||March 30, 2016|
|RESPONDENT||Union of India|
|BENCH/ JUDGE||V. Gopala Gowda and Arun Mishra|
|STATUTES/CONSTITUTION INVOLVED||Constitution of India; Criminal Procedure Code, 1973; Civil Procedure Code, 1908;|
|IMPORTANT SECTIONS INVOLVED||Constitution of India: Articles 14,21,32,141,142,144 Criminal Code of Procedure: Sections 284 and 296 Motor Vehicles Act, 1988: Section 134 Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002: Clauses 7 and 8|
The case involved a petition being filed by the Savelife Foundation seeking a legal framework for those who hesitate in helping the individual in pain due to road accidents. The petitioners believe that India is a densely populated country, there would be traffic and every sort of bars which would delay the emergency to reach on time and hence the petitioners appeal for a set of guidelines to be lined up and laws be enacted for this purpose.
“A Good Samaritan is not simply one whose heart is touched in immediate care and charity, but one who provides a system of sustained care”, as said by James A. Forbes.
The people from general public who participate in helping the people are called as Good Samaritan, this has been enshrined in the Bible as a parable by Jesus Christ in the “Gospel of Luke.”
It is not about the current scenario but a report, “World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention 2004” of 2004 from WHO rightly pointed out that by 2020 road accidents would be one of the biggest killers in India and this proved to be true because there was lack of medical assistance to the victims. Another finding from WHO records that 50 percent of the victims die in the first 15 minutes as a result of the cardiovascular (related to heart) or nervous injuries (damage to brain parts) while the other 50 percent can be given life by providing immediate help by the passers-by during the Golden Hour, that is, the first hour of the injury.
This judgement gave way to people who feared their entailment in legal process as they were bestowed with rights that they would not be forced to reveal their identity, they can leave the hospital as soon as possible until they wish to stay, they would not be penalised under criminal or civil liability and various other guidelines were passed which gave a sigh of relief to the individuals. These guidelines were framed as a result of the delay of the ambulance to reach the accident spot and therefore the citizens of the country have the duty to help the other person in vain, this helps in achieving the basic structure’s one of the proponents: Fraternity.
FACTS OF THE CASE
Owing to the petition filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, Savelife Foundation demanded a legal framework to protect those people who help the injured or the victims of the road accidents. Savelife Foundation is a non-governmental and non- profitable organization established in the year 2008 and registered as a Public Charitable Trust.
The man behind foundation of this organization is Piyush Tewari who has himself experienced a trauma wherein the passers-by just acted as a spectator and did not help the aggrieved as he discussed on the television show Satyamev Jayate, at that moment he decided to look into this matter and bring it to the main platform for discussion. It can be inferred that though the Samaritans want to help the victims but are helpless because they think all this might involve them in court cases, police investigation and to stay at the hospital to complete all the formalities and do the payment of the treatment; therefore, the bystanders do not take a step towards the victims and move on sympathising with them and praying that they might be given assistance.
It was in lieu of this that the organization brought up the case to the mainstream and filed a PIL. “While issuing notice on 17.8.2012, this Court has observed: “It remains undisputed before us that it is not insufficiency of law but it is implementation of law which is a matter of concern. Different guidelines including guidelines for ambulance Code, emergency care and appropriate directions to the hospitals on the highways for handling the accident trauma patients, as a top priority are stated to have been issued.”
ISSUES RAISED BEFORE THE COURT
- Can directions be issued under Article 32 of the Constitution of India for protection of “good Samaritans”?
- Is there a violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India?
- Can actions be taken against the good Samaritans?
- What all guidelines can be made to protect such people who help the victims of road accidents?
- Whether the laws related to the road safety sufficient enough or some amendments are required?
- What are root causes behind people not helping the injured victims on the road?
ARGUMENTS FROM THE PETITIONERS SIDE
- The learned counsel for petitioner contended for a legal framework for the bystanders and passers-by if they offer help to victims of the road accidents.
- The learned counsel contended for guidelines to be issued the various ministries involved.
- The counsel further contended that the recommendations made by the Ad Hic Committee headed by the Additional Secretary “form the basis of an exercise under Article 32 of the Constitution of India to issue directions until framing of the appropriate laws by the legislature.”
- It was further pointed out that the Committee was headed by a government’s high officer and that the Union of India was adequately represented.
- The counsel also argued that the Joint suggestions that would be made should also take into account the directions and safeguards that could be provided to the bystanders as it would help in speedy disposal of the cases in relation with crimes.
- It was further appealed that the counsel would like to make some changes in the “Good Samaritan Guidelines” issued by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
ARGUMENTS FROM THE RESPONDENTS SIDE
- The learned counsel contended for formation of an Expert Committee that would monitor the various directions issued.
- The learned counsel contended that the Committee is looking into the issues and what all aids could be provided to the victims of the road’s accident
- The counsel appealed to the court for giving some time to contact the Ministry of Law and Justice.
- She further argued that the recommendation by the Ministry be allowed to be placed in front of the court as of related to the amendments.
- The counsel responded in response to the point made by the petitioner to make some changes in the guidelines issued that they have been incorporated as Standing Operating Procedure.
CONSTITUTION OF INDIA, 1949:
- ARTICLE 14:
“Equality before law The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.”
- ARTICLE 21:
“Protection of life and personal liberty No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”
- ARTICLE 32:
Remedies for enforcement of rights conferred by this Part
- The right to move the Supreme Court by appropriate proceedings for the enforcement of the rights conferred by this Part is guaranteed
- The Supreme Court shall have power to issue directions or orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari, whichever may be appropriate, for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by this Part
- Without prejudice to the powers conferred on the Supreme Court by clause (1) and (2), Parliament may by law empower any other court to exercise within the local limits of its jurisdiction all or any of the powers exercisable by the Supreme Court under clause ( 2 )
- The right guaranteed by this article shall not be suspended except as otherwise provided for by this Constitution
- ARTICLE 141:
“Law declared by Supreme Court to be binding on all courts The law declared by the Supreme Court shall be binding on all courts within the territory of India”
- ARTICLE 142:
“Enforcement of decrees and orders of Supreme Court and unless as to discovery, etc ( 1 ) The Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and any decree so passed or orders so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament and, until provision in that behalf is so made, in such manner as the President may by order prescribe”
2. Subject to the provisions of any law made in this behalf by Parliament, the Supreme Court shall, as respects the whole of the territory of India, have all and every power to make any order for the purpose of securing the attendance of any person, the discovery or production of any documents, or the investigation or punishment of any contempt of itself
- ARTICLE 144:
Civil and judicial authorities to act in aid of the Supreme Court All authorities, civil and judicial, in the territory of India shall act in aid of the Supreme Court
CRIMINAL CODE OF PROCEDURE:
- SECTION 284:
When attendance of witness may be dispensed with and commission issued.
- “ Whenever, in the course of any inquiry, trial or other proceeding under this Code, it appears to a Court or Magistrate that the examination of a witness is necessary for the ends of justice, and that the attendance of such witness cannot be procured without an amount of delay, expense or inconvenience which, under the circumstances of the case, would be unreasonable, the Court or Magistrate may dispense with such attendance and may issue a commission for the examination of the witness in accordance with the provisions of this Chapter: Provided that where the examination of the President or the Vice- President of India or the Governor of a State or the Administrator of a Union territory as a witness is necessary for the ends of justice, a commission shall be issued for the examination of such a witness.”
- “The Court may, when issuing a commission for the examination of a witness for the prosecution, direct that such amount as the Court considers reasonable to meet the expenses of the accused, including the pleader’ s fees, be paid by the prosecution.”
- SECTION 296:
Evidence of formal character on affidavit.
- The evidence of any person whose evidence is of a formal character may be given by affidavit and may, subject to all just exceptions, be read in evidence in any inquiry, trial or other proceeding under this Code.
- The Court may, if it thinks fit, and shall, on the application of the prosecution or the accused, summon and examine any such person as to the facts contained in his affidavit.
MOTOR VEHICLES ACT, 1988
- SECTION 134:
“Duty of driver in case of accident and injury to a person. —When any person is injured or any property of a third party is damaged, as a result of an accident in which a motor vehicle is involved, the driver of the vehicle or other person in charge of the vehicle shall”
- “unless it is not practicable to do so on account of mob fury or any other reason beyond his control, take all reasonable steps to secure medical attention for the injured person, 1[by conveying him to the nearest medical practitioner or hospital, and it shall be the duty of every registered medical practitioner or the doctor on the duty in the hospital immediately to attend to the injured person and render medical aid or treatment without waiting for any procedural formalities], unless the injured person or his guardian, in case he is a minor, desires otherwise;”
- b. “give on demand by a police officer any information required by him, or, if no police officer is present, report the circumstances of the occurrence, including the circumstances, if any, for not taking reasonable steps to secure medical attention as required under clause (a), at the nearest police station as soon as possible, and in any case within twenty-four hours of the occurrence; 2[(c) give the following information in writing to the insurer, who has issued the certificates of insurance, about the occurrence of the accident, namely:—
(i)insurance policy number and period of its validity;
(ii) date, time and place of accident;
(iii) particulars of the persons injured or killed in the accident;
(iv) name of the driver and the particulars of his driving licence. Explanation. — For the purposes of this section, the expression “driver” includes the owner of the vehicle.]”
While deciding a battle of long time, the court finally allowed the writ petition filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India. The court observed that the petition appealed to the court for a set of guidelines for the Samaritans and their protection as they are the immediate people who can render help to the injured victims. It emphasised that the Samaritans fear or hesitate to help because of the “fear of involvement in litigation and other legal consequences.” There have been laws framed in various other countries, such as England and Wales, where Parliament has formed the “Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Act, 2015″, which contains provisions 2 and 4 that deal with the way the respondent was behaving, that is, bona fide or mala fide, and the other deals with whether the respondent heroically saved the individual in danger. Other countries are Ireland, Australia, Canada, etc., wherein the laws related to Samaritans have been formed. The court held that Article 21, which covers the right to life, also extends to the “right of safety of persons while travelling on the road, and immediate medical assistance as a necessary corollary is required to be provided, as well as adequate legal protection and prevention from harassment to good Samaritans.”
The Department of Road Transport and Highways had sent a circular to all the States and UTs that the person bringing the injured should not be asked his identity and nor be forced, he should also not be detained for any interrogation and the public should be boosted to help the road accident victims.
The Ministry of Road Transport issued the “Good Samaritan Guidelines”, which included the following directions: the good Samaritan includes an eyewitness and he should be allowed to leave the hospital after extracting the address and no other question should be asked, the bystander would be rewarded by the authorities if they help the road accident victims, they would not be made liable for any criminal and civil liability, they would not be forced to reveal themselves if they inform the police authorities and it would be voluntary and optional, videoconferencing should be used in case the person is an eyewitness, as was held in Parmanand Katara V. Union of India, no private or government hospital shall retain any Samaritan unless the person is kith or kin, the doctor should be punished who had to be available during the emergency treatment of the victim, a charter to be published by all the hospitals at the entrance in Hindi, English and vernacular language of the state or territory that a good Samaritan would not be detained; and the guidelines issued are “without prejudice to the liability of the driver of a motor vehicle in the road accident, as specified under Section 134 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.”
Referring to various cases such as Lakshmi Kant Pandey V. Union of India, where the matter related to inter-country adoption was discussed and prevented any ‘malpractices and trafficking of children under the guise of adoption”. Hence, the court has laid down the norms for inter-country adoptions.
In D.K. Basu V. State of W.B., the court laid down directions for the police authorities as violence, torture, and death in custody violate Article 21 and basic human rights are also infringed. In Vishakha V. State of Rajasthan, the court laid down guidelines to be followed in workplaces for working women until legislation is enacted for gender equality and prevention of sexual harassment.
In Erach Sam Kanga V. Union of India, guidelines were issued in relation to the Emigration Act, in Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Assn. V. Union of India, a nine-bench judge laid down guidelines for the “appointment and transfer of judges” , the way court filled the void created due to no legislative acts and provided guidelines, it is right now in the same position and ruled that “This Court can issue such directions under Article 32 read with Article 142(as was held in Vineet Narain case) to implement and enforce the guidelines which are necessary for protection of rights under Article 21 read with Article 14 of the Constitution of India so as to implement and enforce the guidelines which are necessary for protection of rights under Article 21 read with Article 14 of the accident and at the guidelines which are necessary for protection to Good Samaritans. The guidelines will have the force of law under Article 141. By virtue of Article 144, it is the duty of all authorities—judicial and civil—in the territory of India to act in aid of this Court by implementing them.”
The court approved the guidelines hereby mentioned and also asked the ministry to include the recommendations made by the petitioners and the court gives the power to appoint such committee for good Samaritans examination under Sections 284 and 296 under CrPC, 1973. The court ended by lauding the efforts made for formulation of such guidelines and the positive attitude of the counsel for the petitioners.
Every time, the country needs assistance and guide, the doors of the apex court open and the mantra is provided. The same happened in the present case which is a quite sensitive issue and we do not have any laws or regulations framed for this. The petitioners were angry of the day-to-day happenings that take the life of hundreds of people who shriek and give a cry of agony. As the people turn blind eyes towards them, a family loses one or the other member thinking if only medical help would have been provided on time and start cursing the people around. This is not the behaviour of people willingly rather helplessly they leave as they do not want to be circumscribed with the legal process around it.
Hence, this case is an answer to all those who hesitate to help the victims of the road accident and a shout out to all to come in large numbers to help the person in pain because you are a “Samaritan”.
 Author is 3rd semester student, Amity Law School, Lucknow
 Indian Kanoon, https://indiankanoon.org/doc/79865001/ (last visited Jul.14, 2022).
 INDIA CONST. art. 14.
 INDIA CONST. art. 21.
 INDIA CONST. art. 32, cl.1.
 INDIA CONST. art 32, cl.2
 INDIA CONST. art. 32, cl.3.
 INDIA CONST. art. 32, cl.4.
INDIA CONST. art. 141.
INDIA CONST. art. 142, cl.1.
INDIA CONST. art. 142, cl.2.
INDIA CONST. art. 144.
 The Criminal Code of Procedure, 1973, §284(1), No.2, Acts of Parliament, 1973(India).
 The Criminal Code of Procedure, 1973, §284(2), No.2, Acts of Parliament, 1973(India).
 The Criminal Code of Procedure, 1973, §296(1), No.2, Acts of Parliament, 1973(India).
 The Criminal Code of Procedure, 1973, §296(2), No.2, Acts of Parliament, 1973(India).
 The Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, §134, No. 59, Acts of Parliament, 1988(India).
 The Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, §134(a), No. 59, Acts of Parliament, 1988(India).
 The Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, §134(b), No. 59, Acts of Parliament, 1988(India).
 Parmanand Katara V. Union of India, (1989) 4 SCC 286.
 Lakshmi Kant Pandey V. Union of India, (1984) 2 SCC 244.
 D.K. Basu V. State of W.B., (1997) 1 SCC 416.
 Vishakha V. State of Rajasthan, (1997) 6 SCC 416.
 Erach Sam Kanga V. Union of India, WP No. 2632 of 1978.
 Supreme Court Advocates-on- Record Assn. V. Union of India, (1993) 4 SCC 441.
 Vineet Narain V. Union of India, (1998) 1 SCC 226.