The Bombay high court on Thursday granted four weeks time to the Union government to respond to a petition seeking amendments in law to enhance punishment for offenders in drink driving cases and more compensation to the accident victims.
A division bench of Abhay Oka and A S Chandurkar were hearing a public interest litigation filed by journalist Nikhil Wagle, seeking compensation from Salman Khan for the victims of the 2002 hit-and-run case involving the superstar.
The bench asked Anil Singh, additional solicitor general, to seek instructions from the Union Government and file a response to the Public Interest Litigation after a month.
The bench had earlier asked the Union government to consider amending section 279 of Indian Penal Code (rash and negligent driving) and enhance the existing punishment (two years' jail term) for drink driving.
The Court also suggested that Indian Penal Code sections 304 A (culpable homicide not amounting to murder which attracts up to 10 years punishment) and 279 should be amended to include a specific offence of drink driving.
The Central government's lawyer said it was considering amendment of section 304 A and it had sought views of the state government on section 279. An affidavit filed by Charushila Tambekar, joint secretary, home department, government of Maharashtra, said records of this PIL had been destroyed in a fire that broke out in Mantralaya on June 21, 2012 and hence there was a delay in filing a reply.
The affidavit further said that the state had proposed amendments in law and had sent the bill for President's assent to the Centre but the same was not supported by the union ministry for road transport and highways.
The state government stated that police had registered 2,95,967 drink driving cases from 2006 to 2014, while collecting Rs 45.55 crore as fine from the offenders. Besides, 46,998 driving licences had been suspended from 2007 to 2014.
On the last occasion, Jaiprakash Agarwal, joint secretary (home), Union government, stated in his affidavit that the Law Commission had recommended modification of sections 304 A and 279 to include drink driving as a serious offence. The process had already begun and it will come up before the Cabinet.
The Centre had sought the views of the state governments and union territories on amending section 279. However, Maharashtra had not responded so far, the affidavit said.
The court then asked the state government to respond to the Centre's proposal within two months. Salman's vehicle, allegedly driven by him, rammed into a bakery at suburban Bandra on September 28, 2002, killing one person and injuring four. A sessions court is currently trying the actor in the case.
At an earlier hearing on this PIL in October 2002, the then Attorney General Goolam Vahanvati had assured the court that he will personally ensure that constructive measures were taken by the government to prevent drink driving.
The high court had then asked the government to file an affidavit stating so, but no affidavit has been filed so far.