Keep up, Good Samaritans! Law now protects you when you help accident victims
Every year, over 1.30 lakh people die in India in road accidents. Many because nobody helps them during the first golden hour due to fear or harassment from authorities. Now, good citizens can help accident victims without any worry
The World Health Organisation (WHO) in its first ever Global Status Report on Road Safety has revealed that with over 1.30 lakhs deaths reported annually in India through road accidents, the country has overtaken China and now has the worst road traffic accident rate worldwide. This means we have 15 persons dying on our road every hour. The report pointed to speeding, drunk driving and low use of helmets, seat belts and child restraints in vehicles as the main contributing factors.

Why a person hesitates to be a Good Samaritan?

In another report of Consumers India, it is stated that it is a country not only with the highest number of road accidents, but also lowest care in the ‘Golden Hour’- the critical 60 minutes following a trauma that can make a difference between life and death. This is because; any person who tries to help the accident victim is put to considerable harassment by the police, courts and other authorities. In a panel discussion on the subject ‘Why hesitate being a Good Samaritan?’ it was observed that the major problem in transforming a person from a mere spectator to be good Samaritan (a compassionate person who unselfishly helps others, specially strangers) is the fear of harassment from the authorities and the repeated trips that they have to make to the police stations and the courts. 

Private member’s bill by Kirron Kher, MP

Kirron Kher, a Member of Parliament (MP), has introduced Good Samaritan (Protection from Civil and Criminal Liabilities) and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill, in December, 2014 to protect good Samaritans from civil and criminal liabilities by establishing supportive legal environment. It expresses the need to establish a Good Samaritan Authority, which will be responsible on acting upon complaints of harassment and violation of rights of Good Samaritans and institute legal proceedings against persons involved in such harassments or violations of rights. The Bill is yet to be passed by the Parliament. 
In the meantime, Save Life Foundation, an NGO, which is focused on improving road safety and emergency medical care across India had filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court seeking protection of Good Samaritans who help accident victims. Agreeing with the concerns and pending suitable enactment in this regard, the Supreme Court on 29 October 2014 directed the Government to issue detailed guidelines on how Good Samaritans are to be treated by Police, Hospitals and Courts. 
In deference to the court orders, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has now issued detailed guidelines on 12 May 2015 to protect those helping accident victims until appropriate legislation is enacted by the Union Legislature. The Gazette Notification dated 12th May, 2015 is reproduced here below: 
This is a big win for Good Samaritans who help accident victims. It is worthwhile to carry a copy of this notification with our vehicle papers just in case if someone still tries to intimidate or harass when we try to help an accident victim. Let us help an accident victim and save a life.
(The author is the financial analyst writing for Moneylife under the pen-name ‘Gurpur’)
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