A co-passenger in a car engaged in a traffic accident caused by an intoxicated driver may be charged with incitement and culpable homicide that does not constitute murder under Section 304(ii) of the IPC, according to a recent Madras High Court ruling. The matter was between Dr. Lakshmi v. State (Crl RC No 410 of 2022) and was presided over by Hon’ble Mr. Justice D. Bharatha Chakravarthy.
FACTS OF THE CASE:
In the early morning hours, the petitioner and two other passengers were in a car when it suddenly lost control and crashed into three pedestrians, killing them instantly and seriously injuring a few others. The car also dashed against a motor bike and another vehicle.
The petitioner’s brother, who was driving the car (first accused) was charged for offence under Section 304(ii) (3 counts) while the petitioner and the other co-passenger where charged for the offence under Section 304(ii) (3 counts) read with 109 of the Indian Penal Code.
On two different grounds, the petitioner contested the criminal proceedings. First of all, a medical check proved that she was not intoxicated at the time of the accident. Second, there was no proof that the petitioner was aware of the driver’s intoxicated condition.
The Hon’ble Court argued that the petitioner was entitled to discharge because the negative act, which is not stopping the accused from driving while intoxicated, cannot be classified as abetment under Section 109 of the Indian Penal Code. It did so by citing Kulwant Singh @ Kulbansh Singh v. State of Bihar.
The petitioner had, however, engaged in a “positive act” by opening the door and getting into the front seat of the automobile, engaging in the ride. The court recognised this. Depending on the specifics of each situation, it would be difficult to say if this positive deed amounted to encouraging the motorist to drive while intoxicated. The participants in this case were on a nighttime stroll, which would constitute instigation.
The court noted that a co-passenger in a car engaged in a traffic accident caused by an intoxicated driver may be charged with incitement and culpable homicide that does not constitute murder under Section 304(ii) of the IPC.
The Criminal Revision was dismissed.
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JUDGMENT REVIEWED BY ADITI PRIYADARSHI