Receiving phone calls while driving has been seen as an offense in India and scores of commuters have paid hefty fines in the past for breaching such a law. But now, the Kerala High Court has put an end on this and has stated that talking on the mobile phone while driving is not an offense unless it can be established that the act, in the particular instance when the driver was caught, had endangered public safety. The judicature further stated that there are no provisions in the existing law to book a person for speaking on the phone while driving.
The High Court was hearing a petition by MJ Santhosh, a resident of Kochi, who was booked by the police under Section 118 (E) of the Kerala Police Act and Section 184 of the Motor Vehicles Act for talking on the phone while he was driving. The court disposed of the case without fine and ruled that the police could take action only if it was established that driver had endangered the safety of the public while driving.
“There is no provision in the Police Act that bans people from talking over mobile phone while driving. Hence a person doing this can’t be assumed as one causes danger to the public,” the bench said. “The court can’t rule that the person who speaks on a mobile phone while driving causes danger to the public. The assembly should pass an amendment to include these provisions in the Police Act to make it an offense. If the police had registered such cases in the state those concerned can approach the respective magistrate courts to quash their cases,” the bench added.
Notably, this court’s order is valid across all the states in India, except Jammu and Kashmir. Speaking to media, a spokesperson of the State Motor Vehicles Department said that the government will take necessary action after examining the verdict in detail.
The decision from the court comes just a few days after, Rajasthan High Court had directed the state government to seize the licenses of those caught red-handed while talking on mobile phone while driving and described the practice as a major cause of accidents. It also directed the government to cancel the licenses of habitual defaulters.
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