No Common Intention To Cause Death Of Passengers By Causing Road Accidents: SC Reduces Sentence Of Bus Driver With Wrist Deformity
The Supreme Court allowed in part a Special Leave Petition of a Bus Driver who was convicted under Section 304 (2) read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for his involvement in an accident which killed five passengers and injured sixty-three passengers.
The Court reduced his sentence from 5 years of rigorous imprisonment to one year. The Court noted that there was no common intention to cause the death of the passengers by causing a road traffic accident and therefore, Section 34 IPC will not be applicable to this case.
The Bench comprising Justice B.V. Nagarathna and Justice Ujjal Bhuyan observed, “Further, it was also not proper to invoke Section 304-II read with Section 34 of the IPC inasmuch as there was no common intention to cause the death of the passengers by causing a road traffic accident. Therefore, to that extent, there has been non application of mind by the trial court and the same being affirmed by the High Court is not just and proper”.
Advocate Sriram Parakkat appeared for the Petitioner and Advocate C.K. Sasi appeared for the Respondent.
A Special Leave Petition was filed challenging the conviction and sentence of the Accused under Sections 304(2) and 34 of the IPC. A bus accident occurred, wherein the accused-appellant No. 1 was driving the Bus with a deformity on his left wrist and without a driving license. These facts were well known to the owner of the Bus, Accused no. 2. The Trial Court held that while the accused-appellants did not possess mens rea to cause the death of the passengers, they had the knowledge that if Appellant No. 1 drove the bus, he was likely to cause death of or injuries to passengers. The High Court sustained the conviction and held that one of the most effective ways of keeping drivers of automobiles under mental vigil is to maintain a deterrent element in the sentencing sphere. Therefore, the High Court cancelled the suspension of the sentence as well as the relief of bail.
The Court noted that sufficient evidence was not produced to show that the deformity of the Accused was the sole reason for the accident. The trial court could have been more circumspect while awarding punishment, the Court emphasised. The Court noted that the imprisonment up to five years in the absence of imposition of any fine is disproportionate. The Court also emphasised that Section 34 of IPC does not apply in the case as there was no common intention to cause the death of the passengers by causing a road traffic accident.
“The accident cannot be attributed solely to the deformity of the left wrist of accused appellant No.1 as there is no concrete evidence in that regard…It has also been established that the bus was being driven by the accused-appellant No.1 and accused appellant No.2 is the owner of the bus. However, we find that the trial court could have been more circumspect while awarding punishment. We find that imprisonment up to five years in the instant case in the absence of imposition of any fine is disproportionate, having regard to the peculiar facts of this case. Moreover, the same punishment has been imposed on accused-appellant No.2 herein, who is the owner of the bus and did not have any role in causing the accident as such, but remotely by permitting his brother to drive the bus. In the case of accused appellant No. 2 instead of awarding a sentence of five years rigorous imprisonment, fine could have been imposed”, the Bench noted.
The Court noted that for Accused no. 1 the sentence shall be reduced to one-year imprisonment and for Accused no. 2 to undergo 4 months imprisonment with a fine of Rs.7,50,000/-.
Accordingly, the Court affirmed the conviction but modified the sentence.
Cause Title: Martin @ Jinu Sebastian & Anr. v State of Kerala