In the last ten years, road crashes have killed over 13 lakh people in India. According to the Law Commission of India, 50% of these victims died of preventable injuries and could have been saved if they had received care on time.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), in the absence of established emergency medical services, bystanders can play a game changing role in saving lives. They can call for help, provide first-aid to the injured and even rush them to the nearest hospital, if an ambulance does not arrive in time.
The role of the bystander is critical in providing emergency care to the victim. Yet, in India, bystanders have been hesitant to help the injured for fear of legal repercussions and procedural hassles.
With regard to this problem, in 2012, SaveLIFE Foundation had filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court of India, requesting the Hon’ble court to safeguard Good Samaritans who come forward to help the injured. On March 30, 2016, the Supreme Court of India gave “force of law” to the guidelines for the protection of Good Samaritans issued by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. The purpose of a Good Samaritan law is to provide legal protection to bystanders who come to the aid and rescue of victims of road accidents.
As per the Notification dated 21 January 2016 of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, the Central Government considered it necessary to issue Standard Operating Procedure for the examination of Good Samaritans by the Police or during trial and here by issue the following standard operating procedure, namely:—
- The Good Samaritan shall be treated respectfully and without any discrimination on the grounds of gender, religion, nationality, caste or any other grounds.
- Any person who makes a phone call to the Police control room or Police station to give information about any accidental injury or death, except an eyewitness may not reveal personal details such as full name, address, phone number, etc.
- Any Police official, on arrival at the scene, shall not compel the Good Samaritan to disclose his / her name, identity, address and other such details in the Record Form or Log Register.
- Any Police official or any other person shall not force any Good Samaritan who helps an injured person to become a witness in the matter. The option of becoming a witness in the matter shall solely rest with the Good Samaritan.
- The concerned Police official(s) shall allow the Good Samaritan to leave after having informed the Police about an injured person on the road, and no further questions shall be asked if the Good Samaritan does not desire to be a witness in the matter.
Examination of Good Samaritan by the Police
- In case a Good Samaritan so chooses to be a witness, he shall be examined with utmost care and respect and without any discrimination on the grounds of gender, religion, nationality, caste or any other grounds.
- In case a Good Samaritan chooses to be a witness, his examination by the investigating officer shall, as far as possible, be conducted at a time and place of his convenience such as his place of residence or business, and the investigation officer shall be dressed in plain clothes, unless the Good Samaritan chooses to visit the police station.
- Where the examination of the Good Samaritan is not possible to be conducted at a time and place of his convenience and the Good Samaritan is required by the Investigation Officer to visit the police station, the reasons for the same shall be recorded by such officer in writing.
- In case a Good Samaritan so chooses to visit the Police Station, he shall be examined in a single examination in a reasonable and time-bound manner, without causing any undue delay.
- In case the Good Samaritan speaks a language other than the language of the Investigating Officer or the local language of the respective jurisdiction, the Investigating Officer shall arrange for an interpreter.
- The complete statement or affidavit of such Good Samaritan shall be recorded by the Police official while conducting the investigation in a single examination.
This decision of the Supreme Court has made it easier for the common man to save an injured accident victim without the fear of being harassed by a police.
The Indian Lawyer