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Report No. 234

4. Previous Reports of the Law Commission of India and its recommendations

4.1 The 42nd Report of the Law Commission of India, submitted in June, 1971, examined the provisions of the IPC, and its relevant paragraphs are reproduced below:

Para 14.8. Section 279 amended. "Section 279 deals with the offence of rash driving of a vehicle on a public way. We propose to make the fine under this section unlimited by omitting the words 'which may extend to one thousand rupees'."

Para 14.9. New section 279.- Dangerously overloaded vehicles. There is, however, no provision corresponding to section 282 under which carrying passengers in a boat which is unsafe either because of its condition or because of its load is an offence. A similar provision should, in our opinion, be made for taking on the road an unsafe vehicle, and we suggest the addition of a new section 279A as follows:-

'279A. Driving unsafe or overloaded vehicle on a public way. Whoever knowingly or negligently drives any vehicle on a public way when that vehicle is in such a state or so loaded as to endanger life, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both.'." Para 16.21. Section 304A and quality of negligence. "Section 304A deals with homicide by a rash or negligent act.

That the negligence mentioned in the section is not of the same type as in civil disputes has been made clear by judicial decisions. In civil cases, courts insist on a maximum standard of care, while criminal courts require minimum care. If the minimum care is taken, then the criminal courts would acquit the accused. It was suggested that this judicial interpretation should be embodied in the section, e.g., by adding the words 'so as to indicate a want of due regard for human life'."

Para 16.22. History of section. "The provision in Macaulay's Draft Penal Code was as follows:-

'304. Whoever causes the death of any person by any act or any illegal omission, which act or omission was so rash or negligent as to indicate a want of due regard for human life, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or fine, or both.'

This clause was inadvertently or otherwise, left out in the final draft. The present section 304A was subsequently inserted at the instance of the then Law Minister, Sir James Stephen, by Act 25 of 1870. It was stated in the Statement of Objects and Reasons:-

'The Code, as it stands, contains no adequate provision for the punishment of what English lawyers call manslaughter 32by negligence. This was provided for in the draft Code, section 304, and the present Bill supplies the omission.'."

Para 16.24. No clarification necessary. "sections 336 and 337 refer to acts done 'so rashly or negligently as to endanger human life or the personal safety of others'. But obviously these or similar words would not be adequate or appropriate for the purposes of section 304A. We find it difficult to devise a satisfactory form of words which, while giving effect to the concept of 'criminal negligence', could be regarded as sufficiently expressive and simple. Judicial decisions have fully explained the scope and content of the section and on the whole, it seems best not to make any change in the wording."

Para 16.25. Punishment inadequate. "We are, however, of the view that the present maximum punishment for the offence is inadequate, and should be increased. This is desirable, in view of the greater importance which this offence has assumed since the section was inserted due to the wide use of fast moving mechanically propelled vehicles and the frequency in the commission of the offence, accompanied by callousness of the offender towards the victim; often there are cases tried under this section which are very near to culpable homicide and deserve a severe sentence."

Para 16.26. Opinions received. "... in the views expressed on our question as to the quantum of punishment under the Code, there has been a strong demand for increase in the punishment under this section. The suggestions vary from three years to seven years. There is also a suggestion to increase the period to seven years if more than one death has been caused...."

Para 16.27. Maximum punishment to be five years. "After taking into account our proposal to fix the maximum punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder at ten years, we recommend that the maximum punishment for causing death by negligence may be half that period, namely, five years."

Para 16.71. Sections 336 to 33.- Recommendation for increase in punishment. "The punishment under sections 336 to 338 are not adequate, and should be increased as follows:-

(i) Section 336: Substitute 'six months' for 'three months', and 'five hundred rupees' for 'two hundred and fifty rupees'.

(ii) Section 337: Substitute 'one year' for 'six months' and omit the words 'which may extend to five hundred rupees'.

(iii) Section 338: Substitute 'three years' for 'two years' and omit the words 'which may extend to one thousand rupees'."

4.2 Clauses 116, 117, 123, 138, 139 and 140 of the IPC (Amendment) Bill, 1972, as introduced in the Council of States on 11.12.1972, contained the above suggestions of the Law Commission of India.

4.3 Clauses 118, 119, 127, 141, 142 and 143 of the IPC (Amendment) Bill, 1978, as passed by the Council of States on 23.11.1978, correspondingly carried the above changes; there was slight difference in the text of new section 279A in that it not only sought to punish the one driving a vehicle himself but also the one who permitted another person to drive. In addition, clause 128 of the Bill inserted new section 304B (relating to 'hit and run' cases) after section 304A in the IPC, which read as under:

"Causing death or injury by rash or negligent driving. '304B. Whoever by rash or negligent driving of any vehicle causes the death of any person or causes any injury which is likely to cause the death of such person, the causing of such death not amounting to culpable homicide, and drives or runs away without informing any police station within a reasonable time, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Explanation 1.- Where the act constituting the offence under section 304A or this section is committed while under the 34influence of drink or drug shall be deemed to have been committed in a rash or negligent manner.

Explanation 2.- In this section "vehicle" includes "vessel".'

4.4 As the House of the People was dissolved in 1979, the Bill, though passed by the Council of States, lapsed.

4.5 The 156th Report of the Law Commission of India, submitted in August, 1997, examined the IPC (Amendment) Bill, 1978, and affirmed the above amendments, except that new section 304B was recommended to be inserted as sub-section (2) in section 304A because the number could not be '304B' in view of the amendment of the IPC by Act 43 of inserting section 304B relating to dowry death.

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