Accidents involving pets or animals won’t attract rash driving clause, says Karnataka HC

The case pertains to an accident in 2018, when the petitioner Prathap Kumar hit a pet dog being taken out for a walk by a 60-year-old woman in a residential area.
Karnataka High Court
Karnataka High Court
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In a recent judgment, the Karnataka High Court held that the provision of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Motor Vehicles Act would be applicable for injuries caused to pets or animals during road accidents. In particular, the court ruled that the provision under section 279 of the Indian Penal Code for rash driving was applicable only to human beings and not to a pet or an animal. Justice Suraj Govindaraj, on October 21, passed the judgment while hearing a petition filed by a 21-year-old, seeking to quash the proceedings against him in which he had been accused of causing the death of a pet dog.

Justice Govindaraj also ruled that charges imposed under section 279 of IPC would not be attracted as the section did not recognise and/or make an offence any injury caused to animals. “An accident involving a pet dog would not attract an offence under Section 279 of IPC,” he held. He also held that section 187 of the MV Act pertaining to punishment for causing an accident would not get attracted in the event of an accident involving a pet or an animal.

The case pertained to an accident in 2018, when Prathap Kumar, who was driving an SUV, hit one of the dogs being walked by a woman who was taking her pets for a walk in a residential area. The pet dog named Memphi died after sustaining injuries in the accident. Her son, Dhiraj Rakheja filed a complaint in this regard with the traffic police. A charge sheet was filed against Prathap Kumar under sections 279 (rash driving or riding on a public way), 428 (mischief by killing or maiming animal of the value of ten rupees), and 429 (mischief by killing or maiming cattle, etc., of any value or any animal of the value of fifty rupees) of IPC. He also faced charges under sections 134(a), 134(b) and 187 of the MV Act. Section 134 of the MV Act deals with the duty of the driver in case of accident and injury to a person and section 187 with punishment for offences relating to accident.

Prathap’s counsel said that he was innocent of the offence and said that there was no mens rea [wrong intention] on part of the petitioner to cause injury or harm to the pet dog. “The said dog being on the road, while the petitioner was driving has resulted in the accident,” the counsel contended. However, the counsel for the complainant argued that the pet dog Memphi was not just a pet dog, but a member of the complainant’s family and gave a lot of solace to the mother of the complainant. The counsel argued that the pet should not be treated differently than a human being hit by a vehicle.

After hearing both the parties, Justice Govindaraj said that none of the Acts covered the injury caused to a pet or animal, but only dealt with human beings. Stating that the provision of Section 134(a) or (b) of the MV Act would not get attracted in the event of an accident involving a pet or animal, the court said that the section dealt with a situation when a person was injured or the property of a third party was damaged. The court also said that the section spoke only of securing medical attention to an injured person. “I am of the considered opinion that the said provision relates only to injury to a person, a dog/animal not being a person would not come within the ambit of Section 134 (a) and (b) of MV Act,” the court held.

The court said that the petitioner was not known to the complainant or his family members and he did not have any enmity with the deceased pet dog Memphi. “Hence, there cannot be any animus said to be in existence in the petitioner to cause the death of the said pet Memphi…. There has to be an intent to cause wrongful loss or damage,” the court ruled. Stating that the continuation of the criminal proceedings would only be an ‘abuse of process of Court’ and would cause ‘injustice to the petitioner’ to suffer the ignominy of a criminal trial, the HC quashed the proceedings.

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