New Delhi: A person committing offences under the Motor Vehicles Act, such as over-speeding and rash driving, can also be booked under the Indian Penal Code as both the statutes "operate with full vigour, in their own independent spheres", the Supreme Court has said.
"With rapidly increasing motorisation, India is facing an increasing burden of road traffic injuries and fatalities", it said.
A bench of Justices Indu Malhotra and Sanjiv Khanna set aside an order of the Gauwhati High Court of December 22, 2008, which held that a person booked for over speeding, dangerously driving and other related offences under the MV Act cannot be prosecuted under the IPC.
"In our considered view the position of law is well-settled. This court has consistently held that the MV Act is a complete code in itself in so far as motor vehicles are concerned," the bench said in a recent judgement.
"However, there is no bar under the MV Act or otherwise, to try and prosecute offences under the IPC for an offence relating to motor vehicle accidents. On this ground as well, the impugned judgment is liable to be set aside," it said.
The top court said the ingredients of offences under the both statutes are different and an offender can be tried and punished independently under both of them.
"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 MV Act," it said.
Justice Malhotra, who penned the verdict for the bench, said, "In our view there is no conflict between the provisions of the IPC and the MV 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 top court said the maximum imprisonment for a first time offence under Chapter XIII of the MV Act is up to only six months, whereas the maximum imprisonment for a first time offence under the IPC in relation to road traffic offences can go up to 10 years under Section 304 Part II of the IPC.
"The sentence imposed by courts should be commensurate with the seriousness of the offence, and should have a deterring effect on wrongdoers.
The punishment of offenders of motor vehicle accidents under the IPC is stricter and proportionate to the offence committed, as compared with the MV Act," it said, adding that even assuming that some of the provisions of the MV Act and IPC are overlapping, it cannot be said that the offences under both the statutes are incompatible.