SC: Motor Vehicle Act does not bar prosecution under Indian Penal Code

The Hon’ble Supreme Court , on 4th October 2019, in the matter of The State of Arunachal Pradesh v. Ramchandra Rabidas @ Ratan Rabidas & Anr pronounced that there is no bar under the Motor Vehicle Act or otherwise, to try and prosecute offences under the IPC for an offence relating to motor vehicle accidents. A prosecution, if otherwise maintainable, would lie both under the IPC and the Motor Vehicle Act.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that:

There is no conflict between the provisions of the IPC and the Motor Vehicle Act. Both the statutes operate in entirely different spheres. The offences provided under both the statutes are separate and distinct from each other. The penal consequences provided under both the statutes are also independent and distinct from each other. The ingredients of offences under the both statutes, as discussed earlier, are different, and an offender can be tried and punished independently under both statutes. The principle that the special law should prevail over the general law, has no application in cases of prosecution of offenders in road accidents under the IPC and Motor Vehicle Act. (Para 6)

There is no provision under the Motor Vehicle Act which separately deals with offences causing death, or grievous hurt, or hurt by a motor vehicle in cases of motor vehicle accidents. Chapter XIII of the Motor Vehicle Act is silent about the act of rash and negligent driving resulting in death, or hurt, or grievous hurt, to persons nor does it prescribe any separate punishment for the same; whereas Sections 279, 304 Part II, 304A, 337 and 338 of the IPC have been specifically framed to deal with such offences. (Para 7)

The legislative intent of the Motor Vehicle Act, and in particular Chapter XIII of the Motor Vehicle Act, was not to override or supersede the provisions of the IPC in so far as convictions of offenders in motor vehicle accidents are concerned. Offences under Chapter XIII of the Motor Vehicle Act, cannot abrogate the applicability of the provisions under Sections 297, 304, 304A, 337 and 338 of the IPC. The offences do not overlap, and therefore, the maxim of “generalia specialibus nonderogant” is inapplicable, and cannot be invoked. The offences prescribed under the IPC are independent of the offences prescribed under the Motor Vehicle Act. It cannot be said that prosecution of road traffic/motor vehicle offenders under the IPC would offend Section 5 of the IPC, in so far as punishment for offences under the Motor Vehicle Act is concerned. (Para 9)

A prosecution, if otherwise maintainable, would lie both under the IPC and the Motor Vehicle Act, since both the statutes operate with full vigour, in their own independent spheres. Even assuming that some of the provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act and IPC are overlapping, it cannot be said that the offences under both the statutes are incompatible. (Para 13)

There is no bar under the Motor Vehicle Act or otherwise, to try and prosecute offences under the IPC for an offence relating to motor vehicle accidents. (Para 15)

Copy of judgement: Judgement_04th-Oct-2019

-Adv. Tushar Kaushik

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