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Talking on mobile while driving not offence: Kerala HC

17 May 2018

On Wednesday May 16, a division bench of the high court including justices AM Shaffique and P Somarajan ruled that Kerala police can not register a case if drivers are found talking over the phone as there are no provisions in the law to put a person behind the bar.

On the proposed amendments, the Centre has explained that they would provide for disqualification from holding a driving licence and revocation of licence, of drivers jumping red lights, driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, driving while using a mobile phone and driving the wrong way. "Hence a person doing this can't be assumed as one causes danger to the public", the bench said.

However, the high court ordered that individuals can not be penalised under this act if they are using the phone without causing any danger to the public.

Since the Act doesn't cover using a phone while driving as an offence, no action can be taken against the driver, it said.

According to officials, if a case has to be registered, the legislative assembly should first amend and pass the existing law. It was held by Justice Satheesachandran that section 118 (e) can not be raised against talking on mobile phone while driving as there is no constitutional provision to the effect that such use would harm the public.

The police had filed a case under the Kerala Police Act and the Motor Vehicles Act against MJ Santhosh, a resident of Kakkanad in Ernakulam district, for speaking on the phone while driving, The News Minute reported.

N Madhusudan Nair, a researcher of Road Safety & Driver Behaviour, IIT-Delhi, spoke about the high court statement. In a study done by IIT-Bombay using a driving simulator previous year, it was found that the risk of accidents increased three and four times, depending upon whether the driver was talking on a phone.

"The entire point of having a road safety law in a country is to prevent accidents".

Section 184 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 says: "Whoever drives a motor vehicle at a speed or in a manner which is unsafe to the public, having regard to all the circumstances of the case including the nature, condition and use of the place where the vehicle is driven and the amount of traffic which actually is at the time or which might reasonably be expected to be in the place, shall be punishable".

The court further stated that the section 118 (e) can not be invoked for using the phone while driving. The Act follows penalty to those causing grave violation of public order or danger to public or failure in public safety. It also directed the government to cancel the licenses of habitual defaulters.

Talking on mobile while driving not offence: Kerala HC