Millennium Post

Let’s make Good Samaritans

Before someone disappears, screaming and writhing in pain, the country needs to think again. Are we doing justice to ourselves? What's holding back the government to encourage good samaritans in India? Every day nearly 400 people are killed in road accidents and at least 50 per cent of them could have been saved by timely intervention from passerbys, if they were empowered under the Good Samaritans Law. This piece of legislation is yet to be considered by the union government.

Unfortunately, in the absence of such safeguards, only a few come forward, ignoring ‘harassment’, to rescue people from road accidents everyday. Ironically, Nirbhaya was not the lucky one. Had it been the horrible night of 16 December, 2012, under the Good Samaritans Law, many people would have poured in to help the brave girl, who fought against ‘demons’ before being raped and thrown out of a running bus.

Although, the accused were arrested, the answer lies somewhere else on how our country, especially law makers, should seriously consider empowering people to intervene in such cases.

The newly-elected Union Health Minister Jagat Prakash Nadda was aware about the issue. Already several people across the country have started to shoot mails and letters, requesting him pass the Good Samaritan Bill during the ongoing winter session of the parliament in both houses.

If the bill was passed and translated into law, it would protect and encourage good samaritans to help injured person on the road. The other advantages of the law would be protection for people from legal hassles, involved in helping injured victims. Medical professionals, who immediately attend to the victim, would also be shielded from legal hassles. It would also reduce hassles in the procedure for investigation. The law would also take stern action against public officials found harassing a good samaritan.

Not the least, it will also prevent all hospitals from detaining those who bring in the victims. The law would compel hospitals to treat trauma victims immediately or else risk losing their licenses. There are several other countries where such laws exist that protects and rewards good samaritans. But unfortunately, India needs to adopt such a law urgently, considering that everyday parents are losing their children. Brothers are left without their sisters and children are turned into orphans.

Thanks to the Supreme Court (SC), which passed a landmark order on 30 October, 2014, asking the government to formulate strong guidelines to protect those helping the victims of road accidents, the administration has begun to act accordingly.

The apex court has directed the union government to issue executive orders within three months to protect good samaritans, who want to help road accident victims. The ruling came after SC-appointed K Skandan Committee recommended that such people should not be subjected to civil and criminal liability. “They should not be forced to disclose their identity and should not be called to appear for court hearings,” the committee report suggested. The Committee also suggested that any doctor refusing to attend or treat a road accident victim must face disciplinary action, as per the norms laid down under the Medical Council of India (MCI) guidelines. The panel has suggested that all hospitals must admit such victims and the person accompanying the injured should not be detained by the hospital and authorities should not ask them for registration. “There can be exception only in case the accompanying person is a family member of the victim,” it further reads.

Many feel that SC’s ruling for a legal framework to encourage bystanders to help road accident victims is gaining momentum in society. More people have demanded that such a law be passed, through social networking sites and letters to the concerned people in the government.

As per the National Crime Records Bureau report, in the last decade, over 12 lakh people have lost their lives and 55 lakh were seriously injured or permanently disabled. Shamefully, India manages to secure the first slot with the highest number of road fatalities, as compared to China, Brazil, USA, Indonesia, Russia, Iran, Mexico, South Africa and Thailand. Save Life Foundation, a non profit organisation, which is actively involved in lobbying for such laws, has already send requests to the union health ministry. One of its founders  Piyush Tewari is hopeful that the new government will consider bringing forth such a legislation to save thousands of lives every year. It was often seen that bystanders are usually wary of helping the injured due to legal hassles that accompany such acts. But once this piece of legislation is implemented, it will help these bystanders extend their helping hands to the victims.

A survey done by the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, found that 50 per cent of road accidents victims die due to inadequate help. However, some people consider that helping someone, who has met with an accident, is completely a moral issue rather than a legal problem. “One needs to awaken society to help people in crises rather than enacting such laws. Also, it will put additional burden to judiciary, which is already under pressure from dealing with several cases,” said, Manohar Sharma, a resident of Subhash Nagar, who teaches traffic rules to local children.

But millions across the country, who are victims of road accidents – directly or indirectly – are hopeful that once the bill is passed,  more people will step forward to lend their helping hand.
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