CITU supports road transport workers’ struggle and demands that the stringent punitive provision 104(2) of BNS be deleted

Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) notes with grave seriousness the spontaneous outburst of the protest actions throughout the country by the Road Transport fraternity including the mass of the road transport workers arising out of thoughtless exercise of hasty passage of the so called Bharatiya Nyaa Sanhita, replacing Indian Penal Code and in particular impractical, unjust and unconstitutional provisions put therein relating to road transport accidents arbitrarily empowering executive/authority concerned to impose atrocious penalty and punitive action.

The entire exercise of passing three penal legislations called Bhartiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS) and Bhartiya Sakshya Sanhita, replacing the Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure and Indian Evidence Act, was pushed through by the Government at the Centre, bulldozing any discussion in Parliament and also ignoring the consensus recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs in a brazenly authoritarian manner.  It’s patently clear given their authoritarian attitude they would not allow to have a meaningful debate and discussion in the Parliament leave alone public consultations and discussions with stakeholders- particularly the road transport workers unions.

In the name of de-colonizing the criminal justice system, above legislations have been pushed through. Any process of de-colonisation worth name should entails giving more power to people than treated as subjects during the colonial regime. But in action the Central Govt did just opposite, while touting on its deceptive claim. One of the major points of their claims of decolonization is the removal of section 124(a) of IPC, popularly known as the sedition law. But, if we closely examine the BNS, the same draconian content and intent were retained in section 150 of BNS. And there are many other examples of such deceptive claims in these legislations only.

Moreover, it has expanded the power of police and the executive arbitrarily and abnormally. One of such more glaring instances is the amending of IPC provisions related to the road accidents and other rash and negligent acts/driving where it proposes a jail term of 10 years and/or fine, if a person is found involved in rash driving, escapes the crime scene (mostly out of in fear) and fails to report the incident to police.

The section 104 (2) of BNS says, “Whoever causes death of any person by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide and escapes from the scene of incident or fails to report the incident to a police officer or magistrate soon after the incident, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description of a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

Currently, incidents of hit-and-run are registered under sections 279 (rash or reckless driving), 304A (causing death by negligence) and 338 (endangering life or personal safety of others) of the IPC. The punishment for causing death due to rash and negligent driving under 304A is two years.

It is relevant to recall that after its first introduction in the Lok Sabha on 11th August 2023, it was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs where the committee has recommended reconsidering this section 104(2). The para 3.20.5 of the recommendation of the Standing Committee says that “The Committee is of the view that clause 104(2) may be against the Article 20(3) of the Constitution of India which says - ‘No person accused of an offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself’. But, the Supreme Court has widened the scope of this immunity by interpreting the word ‘witness’ to include oral as well as documentary evidence so that no person can be compelled to be a witness to support a prosecution against himself. Hence, further contemplation is required, if the Government still seeks to retain this new provision”.

Given governments’ scant respect to Parliamentary democracy, we cannot expect them to listen to any such collective wisdoms. Accordingly, they were more recalcitrant and  retained the same ten years’ imprisonment with a new provision 104(2) adding the term ‘driving’ with rash and negligent act against the above mentioned article of Constitution and the Recommendation of Parliamentary Standing Committee.

In this background, motor workers across the country have been on struggle for past three days against these draconian provisions. CITU extends its wholehearted support to the strike actions of road transport workers.

Sensing the surging support for the strike among the vehicle-driving public and workers, Government has assured not to implement that punitive provision but has not uttered any word to revise the same. Thus, CITU demands that this section 104(2) has to be deleted from the penal statue and all stakeholders- particularly the road transport sector trade unions should be consulted on the future corrective measures on these issues.

Issued by:
Tapan Sen
General Secretary

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