By-standers and passers-by who render help to victims of road accidents will not be unnecessarily harrassed, with the Supreme Court giving its nod to government's guidelines to shield good samaritans from harassment at the hands of cops and other authorities.
A bench of justices V Gopala Gowda and Arun Mishra said the "Good Samaritans should feel empowered to act without fear of adverse consequence" while helping others at times of distress.
"People have the notion that touching the body could lend them liable for police interrogation. Passer by plays safe and choses to wait for the police to arrive whereas the injured gradually bleeds to death.
"People are reluctant to come forward for help despite desperate attempts to get help from passers by, (who) by and large they turn a blind eye to the person in distress...," the bench said.
It further said there was a need to evolve a system by promptly providing effective care system with certain ethical and legal principles.
"It is absolutely necessary that Good Samaritans feel empowered to act without fear of adverse consequence. There is need to provide certain incentives to Good Samaritans...", the bench said.
It said the scheme framed by the government and this court order be widely published for the benefit of public, so that "the public is made aware and that serves as impetus to Good Samaritans to extend timely help and protection conferred upon them without incurring the risk of harassment".
"It is apparent that guidelines and directions can be issued by this court including a command for compliance of guidelines and standard operating procedure (SOP) issued by Government, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, till such time as the legislature steps in to substitute them by proper legislation...," the court said, adding it should be complied by the Union Territories and state governments.
The court's order came on a PIL filed by an NGO SaveLife Foundation in 2012 asking for comprehensive protection for Good Samaritans from legal hassles in order to create a conducive environment for people to help injured persons on the road.
The apex court had set up a committee to identify the root causes for fear of harassment and legal hassles in public regarding helping injured victims and sought evolving of guidelines to protect Good Samaritans from police harassment and legal hassles.
Later, the concerned ministries' views were also sought by the apex court, with Ministry of Road Transport and Highways stating that the recommendation made in the committee's report regarding protection of good Samaritans has been accepted by them as also by Ministry of Law and Justice.
Taking note of the notifications of the Centre, the bench said, "The affidavit of Good Samaritan if filed, shall be treated as complete statement by the police official while conducting the investigation. In case statement is to be recorded, complete statement shall be recorded in a single examination".
The guidelines provide that a bystander or Good Samaritan shall be suitably rewarded or compensated to encourage other citizens to come forward to help the road accident victims.
They shall not be liable for any civil and criminal liability.
It had further said that a samaritan who makes a phone call to inform the police or emergency services for the person lying injured on the road, shall not be compelled to reveal his name and personal details on the phone or in person.
The committee, also comprising former Secretary of Road Transport Ministry S Sundar and Nishi Mittal, ex-chief scientist, had given 12 major recommendations including setting up of State Road Safety Councils, evolving a protocol for identification of black spots, their removal and monitoring to see the effectiveness of the action taken.
The Centre had earlier said that in the absence of any statutory backing, it was proving difficult to enforce these guidelines. Hence, it had approached the apex court to consider issuing these guidelines, through an order binding on all states and union territories, till the Centre enacted a law to this effect.