06 September 04, Press Release

Kolkata, Sep 6: “Prompt” medical attention to accident victims! “Only a “lucky” few get it”, says Soumi Home Roy, a researcher with CUTS Safety Watch, a premier consumer organisation working on consumer safety issues.

Road accidents have become a regular phenomenon. Every 12 minutes an Indian dies on the road and 10 times that number get injured. In such circumstances, Roy pointed out that the role of medical institutions becomes important, as the first few minutes after the accident, termed the “Golden Hour,” are very precious and crucial. Many lives can be saved and disabilities prevented by providing immediate treatment to accident victims.

“But in India, medical handling of crash victims is far from satisfactory”, expressed Roy. The time taken between the accident and reaching the hospital is critical, but the procedural wrangles and public fear of getting involved in a police case delay crucial help. Additionally, the police and the medical institutions often prioritise completion of medico-legal formalities over treatment that results in the death or permanent disability of many victims. Moreover, many medical institutions deny emergency cases by giving lame excuses, such as non-availability of beds, etc.

“In 1989, the Supreme Court passed an order that a road accident victim needs immediate medical attention so that his life is saved,” informed Roy. The Court stated that any Doctor (or medical institution) can be approached for immediate treatment and that it is his duty to do so. Alternatively, failure on the part of the doctor (medical institution) to provide timely medical care to a person results in violation of his “Right to Life,” guaranteed under Article 21. The judgement added that in any such case, the police should not harass the doctor by dragging him to the police station in the name of investigation.

Subsequently, in 1994, Section 134 was added to the Motor Vehicle’s Act, 1988 to cover this exigency of providing immediate medical treatment and succour to accident victims. Under this section, a driver involved in any accident is required to secure medical aid for the injured person, by taking him to the nearest hospital/doctor and it shall be the duty of the hospital/doctor to render medical aid to the victim without waiting for completion of legal formalities. Failure in this regard is punishable under Section 187 of MV Act, 1988.

“What is unfortunate is the fact that even after so many years, most of the people are unaware of the Supreme Court judgement and Section 134 of the Motor Vehicles Act. Inspite of the provision under law, accident victims and their relatives suffer because of the ignorance”, lamented Roy.

Roy also pointed out that the entertainment industry, which plays an important role in spreading messages and moulding public perceptions, continue to portray this undesirable state of affairs.

Thus, there is an urgent need to sensitise common people, the police, the medical fraternity, as well as the entertainment industry on the same, opined Roy.

CUTS is involved with road safety issues since the last 20 years and twice it has served on the National Road Safety Council. It has also contributed to the framing of the first National Road Safety Policy draft in 1992. To make people aware about Section 134, CUTS has launched a nation wide campaign.

CUTS has written to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH), DG police of all the states and films/serials directors/actors. Upon hearing positively from eminent personalities like Alok Rawat, Joint Secretary, MORTH and Raj Kumar Hirani (film director), Roy feels encouraged to take this campaign further down to the masses and empower them.