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Concerns over Hit-and-Run Law

  • 10 Jan 2024
  • 10 min read

For Prelims: Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita 2023, Indian Penal Code, 1860, National Crime Records Bureau

For Mains: Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita 2023, Government Initiatives Related to Criminal Justice System, Issues Arising Out of Design & Implementation of Policies

Source: TH

Why in News?

The recent protests by transporters and commercial drivers in states like Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, and Punjab shed light on the contentious Section 106 (2) of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023 (BNS).

  • This section, which stipulates severe penalties for hit-and-run incidents, has become a focal point of discontent among the driving community.
  • The countrywide truckers' strike has been called off after the government assured that it would consult stakeholders before implementing a contentious law against hit-and-run.

What is the Hit-and-run Law?

  • Provisions:
    • The hit-and-run provision is part of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), which is set to replace the colonial-era Indian Penal Code, 1860.
      • Section 106 (2) of the BNS, 2023 stipulates a penalty of up to 10 years in jail and a fine for fleeing an accident spot and failing to report the incident to a police officer or a magistrate.
      • However, if the driver reports the incident immediately after the accident, they will be charged under Section 106(1) instead of Section 106(2). Section 106(1) provides for a punishment of up to five years for causing death by any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide.
  • Need:
    • The new law comes in the backdrop of concerning figures related to road accidents in India.
      • In 2022, India recorded over 1.68 lakh road crash fatalities, averaging 462 deaths daily.
      • India experienced a 12% increase in road accidents and a 9.4% rise in fatalities, while global road crash deaths decreased by 5%.
        • On average, there are 19 deaths per hour due to road accidents in India, almost one death every three and a half minutes.
      • More than half of road fatalities occurred on national and State highways, which make up less than 5% of the total road network.
      • India, with only 1% of the world’s vehicles, contributes to about 10% of crash-related deaths and suffers an annual economic loss of 5-7% of its GDP due to road crashes.
  • Principle Underlying the Law:
    • The National Crime Records Bureau recorded 47,806 hit-and-run incidents which resulted in the deaths of 50,815 people in 2022.
      • Offenders have a legal duty to report road accidents to the police or magistrate, and there are provisions to criminalize the omission of this duty.
    • The principle underlying Section 106 (2) of hit-and-run law is to deter rash and negligent driving and to punish those who flee the scene without reporting or helping the victims.
    • The law reflects the legislative intent to enforce moral responsibility on the offender towards the victim.
      • Drawing parallels with existing laws, such as Section 134 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, highlights the government's commitment to ensuring a prompt and responsible response from drivers in the aftermath of accidents.
        • Section 134 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, requires the driver of the vehicle to take all reasonable steps to secure medical attention for the injured person unless it is not practicable on account of mob fury or any other reason beyond his control.

What are the Concerns of the Protesters?

  • Section 106 (2) of the BNS, 2023:
    • Transporters and commercial drivers are demanding the withdrawal or amendment of Section 106 (2) of the BNS, 2023.
    • Protesters argue that the prescribed penalties, including a 10-year imprisonment and Rs. 7 lakh fine, are excessively severe.
    • The widely circulated view that Section 106 (2) of the BNS stipulates imprisonment of up to 10 years and a fine of Rs. 7 lakh for fleeing an accident spot and failing to report the incident to a police officer/magistrate is grossly incorrect.
      • While this Section discusses a maximum punishment of 10 years and a fine, there is no actual mention in the BNS about the fine being Rs 7 lakh.


  • Section 161 of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019, provides compensation for victims of hit-and-run accidents.
    • The compensation for death is Rs 2 lakh and for grievous hurt, it is Rs 50,000. Unlike Section 106 (2) of BNS, the compensation in this case is not recoverable from the drivers.
  • Challenging Conditions:
    • They argue that the penalty is excessive and fails to consider the challenging work conditions of drivers, such as long driving hours and difficult roads.
    • Transporters also argue that accidents may be caused by factors beyond the driver's control, such as poor visibility due to fog, and fear of mob violence against drivers if they stop to assist at accident sites.
      • The fear of violence further complicates the decision-making process for drivers in the aftermath of accidents.
  • Perceived Unfair Blame:
    • Drivers argue that they are often unfairly blamed for accidents, irrespective of the actual circumstances.
    • The legislation's punitive approach may exacerbate this perception of unfairness and contribute to a negative impact on the transport industry.
  • Possible Misuse by Authorities:
    • They are concerned that the law may be abused by law enforcement agencies and that the harsh penalties could hurt the transport industry as a whole.
  • Unfair Treatment and Limited Categorization:
    • The current legislation raises concerns about the fairness of penalties imposed on truck drivers and individual vehicle drivers,
      • For instance, an exception has been made under 106 (1) of the BNS for doctors in the event of rash or negligent acts, where the punishment will be up to two years with a fine.
    • This limited categorisation is problematic and is against the principles of equality, as the liability of a wide variety of people working in other sectors also needs to be moderated.
  • Lack of Differentiation:
    • Section 106(2) lacks differentiation between rash and negligent driving, which are two distinct types of offences with different degrees of liability.
      • They also contend that the section does not consider the contributory factors in negligent acts, such as the behaviour of commuters, road conditions, lighting on the road, and other similar factors, which may affect the driver’s responsibility.
    • Applying one clause to all situations may unfairly prejudice drivers in different circumstances.

Way Forward

  • Initiate comprehensive consultations with stakeholders, especially drivers and transport associations, to address concerns and gather diverse perspectives.
    • Establish a clear and standardized protocol for emergency response, emphasizing the importance of prompt reporting without exposing drivers to potential violence.
  • The current hit-and-run law under Section 106 (2) of the BNS does not differentiate between different types and outcomes of accidents.
    • The law should be categorised in different scales based on liabilities, such as death, grievous hurt, simple hurt, or minor injuries, and the punishment should be commensurate with the offence.
  • The law should also clarify the reporting procedure and the evidence required for the drivers to prove their innocence or mitigating factors.
  • The road accidents resulting in minor injuries ought not to be equated with criminal acts, but rather impose alternative measures such as community service, revoking of driving licences, or mandatory driving retests.
  • Invest in improved road infrastructure, visibility measures, and safety features to mitigate accidents and reduce the likelihood of hit-and-run incidents.
  • Study and incorporate successful models and best practices from other countries with effective hit-and-run legislation, adapting them to the Indian context.

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