‘Man bleeds to death on Delhi road after hit and run case’ or ‘Accident victim left to bleed and die in Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram’ these are a few headlines that we get to read almost every day. Other than rash and negligent driving and not following traffic rules, one of the main reasons for high rate of road accident deaths in India is the inability of the victims to receive timely medical attention. The Law Commission of India Report of 2006, states that ‘at least 50 per cent of the fatality can be averted if the victims are admitted to a hospital within the first one hour.’ A World Health Organisation (WHO) report also states that ‘even the most sophisticated and well equipped prehospital trauma care system can do little if bystanders fail to recognize the seriousness of a situation, call for help and provide basic care until help arrives.’
A major impediment to victims getting timely help is the panic among bystanders that they could get entangled in legal procedures. This is the reason why a ‘Good Samaritan’ legal protection is essential. Though the Parliament hasn’t passed any such law but on March 30, 2016, thanks to the Supreme Court of India, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways issued guidelines for the protection of Good Samaritans.
The guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court include the following:
1. If you are a Good Samaritan you will be treated respectfully and without any discrimination on the grounds of gender, nationality, religion, and caste.
2. The Good Samaritan shall be allowed to leave by the police after having received all the necessary inputs
3. The Good Samaritan can keep his or identity secret and shall not be compelled to reveal any details.
4. Any individual, except an eyewitness, who calls the police to inform them of an accidental injury or death need not reveal his or her personal details such as full name, address or phone number.
There are several provisions in case a Good Samaritan wants to become a witness to the road accident. He or she would be treated with respect and care and the examination of questioning of the Good Samaritan shall be conducted at the convenience of the Good Samaritan. The Good Samaritan if called at the police station he or she would be examined in a single examination within a reasonable time-frame.
Though these guidelines are a welcome relief, but much more needs to be done to motivate people to become Good Samaritans. Proper sensitization is needed to encourage people to help road crash victims without fear and hesitance.