India has a notorious record of reporting a significantly higher number of road accidents than most other countries across the world. Around 1.55 lakh people lost their lives in road accidents in 2021 alone as per National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data. But lives could have been saved even after unfortunate accidents in many cases if timely emergency services were called in. This is where people at large can play a huge role and make an even bigger difference.
In a country as vast as India, emergency services may not always be available as soon as needed. But the bigger issue often is people in the vicinity of an accident site not knowing how to call in professionals for help or even being reluctant to do so. The reluctance mostly stems from a general opinion that they may be harassed by law-enforcement officials. But in India, there is a clear and stated directive for the protection of Good Samaritans who report accidents and it is important to know these rights.
The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) clearly spells out a standard operating procedure on its website for examination of Good Samaritans by cops. Here are the excerpts from the same:
- 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 or 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.
In case the Good Samaritan wishes to further help in the investigations, there are stated procedures for this as well. Excerpts are as follows:
- 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.
- Where a Good Samaritan declares himself to be an eye-witness, he shall be allowed to give his evidence on affidavit, in accordance with section 296 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974) which refers to Evidence in Formal Character on Affidavit.
- The complete statement or affidavit of such Good Samaritan shall be recorded by the Police official while conducting the investigation in a single examination.
- In case the attendance of the Good Samaritan cannot be procured without delay, expense or inconvenience which, under the circumstances of the case, would be unreasonable, or his examination is unable to take place at a time and place of his convenience, the Court of Magistrate may appoint a commission for the examination of the Good Samaritan in accordance with section 284 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974) on an application by the concerned.