Drivers Protest: What is the new hit-and-run law? How is it more stringent than the old one?

Truckers ended their strike after two days of protest after Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla stated that the implementation of the new penal provision related to hit-and-run cases will only occur after consulting with the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC). Bhalla urged AIMTC and protesting drivers to resume work, highlighting that the new laws are not yet in effect.

Truck drivers and bus operators in some states have protested against provisions in the Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita for hit-and-run cases. Under the Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita (BNS), which replaced the colonial era Indian Penal Code, drivers who cause a serious road accident by negligent driving and run away without informing the police or any official from the administration can face punishment of up to 10 years and a fine of Rs 7 lakh. Many transporter and farmer organizations gave strongly criticized the new law and demanded its immediate repeal.

What is the new hit-and-run law?

The recently enacted Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita introduces stringent penalties for hit-and-run incidents in India. The law specifies that an accused individual causing a fatal crash and fleeing the scene without reporting to authorities could face imprisonment for up to 10 years along with a fine. Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita has established two distinct categories under the umbrella of “causing death by negligence.”

The first category addresses causing death through any rash or negligent act that does not amount to culpable homicide. Offenders in this category may face imprisonment for up to five years and a fine. The second category deals with causing death through rash and negligent driving, not amounting to culpable homicide. If the individual escapes without successfully reporting the incident to a police officer or magistrate, they could be subjected to up to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine.

Despite the law’s intentions, experts highlight the need for greater clarity on how an accused or driver should inform authorities, considering the potential risk of facing public anger at accident scenes. Additionally, safeguards are required to prevent potential misuse of this provision.

Road safety experts say that there is a need to define the type of evidence that will be accepted to authenticate claims by victims or accused individuals, preventing potential misuse.

What was the earlier hit-and-run law?

Previously, individuals accused in hit-and-run cases were tried under Section 304A of the Indian Penal Code, facing penalties of up to two years in prison upon identification. The introduction of the new Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita signifies a substantial shift toward more severe consequences for hit-and-run offenses in India.