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NEW DELHI: Expressing distress that there’s one death every three minutes in road accidents in India, but legal heirs of only half of the victims receive compensation, the Supreme Court has issued a slew of directions to states to set up a road safety policy as well as dedicated safety funds.
The directions came after the SC took note of the heavy toll of human lives due to road accidents, with 139,671 deaths in 2014 and 146,133 in 2015. Though insurance companies paid out a large sum of Rs 11,480 crore as compensation for deaths, injuries and damages in 2015-16, half the legal claimants of remuneration did not get their due as they were unaware of their entitlement.
The SC found Delhi, Assam, Nagaland, Tripura and two other Union Territories (UTs) to be odd ones out as they have not formed a road safety policy. Accepting amicus curiae Gaurav Agrawal’s request, the SC directed defaulting states and UTs to frame policies by January 31. The bench said states which have not done so should set up a road safety fund by March 31 next year.
The SC agreed with Agrawal that one of the main reasons for accidents was poor quality of roads, improper design and inadequate curve, angle and depth which was needed to be maintained at crucial junctions and said the Centre should review protocols for design.
The grim death toll forced the Supreme Court on Thursday to issue directions to bolster road safety measures. A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said huge amounts running into hundreds of crores of rupees have been earmarked for road safety, yet accidents cause a very large number of deaths every year.
The bench said: “There was one death almost every three minutes due to road accidents. Unfortunately, the legal heirs of half the victims were not compensated (perhaps being unaware of their entitlement).”
Writing the judgment for the bench, Justice Lokur stressed on the creation of a road safety fund from the money collected from traffic violators. “States and UTs which have not yet established a road safety fund should do so not later than March 31, 2018 and report back to the committee on road safety (headed by retired SC Judge K S Radhakrishnan). The corpus of the road safety fund will be from the fines collected for traffic violations and the fund will be utilised for meeting expenses relating to road safety,” he said.
Delhi is again a defaulter among states and UTs with regard to setting up of a road safety fund, which has already been established by Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. The court also criticised states and UTs for their lukewarm response to put in place a road safety action plan to reduce the number of accidents and fatality rates. It directed them to do so latest by March 31, 2018.
“The ministry of road transport and highways (MoRTH) is of the opinion that the protocol for road design and identification of black spots needs to be reviewed and enforced. Accordingly, it is directed that MoRTH should publish a protocol for identification and rectification of black spots and take necessary steps for improving the design of roads to make them safe,” the bench said.
The SC also felt MoRTH needs to undertake road safety audits urgently as it was essential to reduce the possibility of accidents. The ministry as well as the amicus agreed that road safety audit should include design stage audit of new road projects of five or more kilometres. Road design audit earlier applied only to mega road projects.
Asking state and UT governments to strictly implement lane-driving rules, the SC asked the governments to set up at least one trauma care centre in every district “since it is on record that treatment soon after a road accident is crucial for saving the life of a victim”.