Various states in India saw an uproar from the driver community after it was announced that the new law BNS Section 106 (Article 2) for hit-and-run cases under the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita will attract a fine of up to INR 7 lakh and imprisonment up to 10 years. In the latest update, Ajay Bhalla (Union Home Secretary), after a meeting with the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) yesterday, gave assurance that the law will not be implemented without extensive discussion and consultation with the road transportation industry bodies and other stakeholders. Bhalla also appealed for the drivers in protest to return to work and wait for further updates.
The BNS will tentatively be implemented by December 2024. Transport bodies like AITWA and AIMTC are striving to support the community and circulate accurate information regarding the new law.
Various scenarios under which truck drivers can be harassed and held guilty were shared with the Home Ministry to sensitize the situation and the apprehension of the drivers. With a lack of transparency that tagged along the announcement, drivers across the country participated in protests against the law, calling it a ‘black law’. The new provisions have triggered strikes by drivers in several states, including Maharashtra, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir.
According to the new BNS provision, “Whoever causes the death of any person by rash and negligent driving of vehicle not amounting to culpable homicide, and escapes without reporting it to a police officer or a magistrate soon after the incident, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description of a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”
Abhishek Gupta (General Secretary, AITWA) and Amritlal Madan (President, AIMTC), while talking to Logistics Insider, confirmed that the law has been put on hold and for the time being, the accused will be tried under the IPC.
In the midst of all this, another important issue has also been highlighted – that of driver education. Gupta shared that most of the drivers at the protest were not aware of the complete details and there was some misinformation that was shared with them. He speculated that it may be somewhat politically inclined too.
The driver community, one of the most socially marginalized in India, is not fully aware of the laws, their rights, and their responsibilities. This eventually translates into a fear of law and the ‘mob culture’ prevalent in India. Overall, it is necessary that the workers of India’s supply chain industry – especially the ones in blue collar jobs – are educated by the industry associations.