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Rediff.com  » News » Do you know about the Good Samaritan law?

Do you know about the Good Samaritan law?

Last updated on: December 20, 2018 11:01 IST

'From what I saw on the road that day it was evident that people want to help.'
'But they also need to have the confidence that their well-intentioned actions will not boomerang on them,' says Veenu Sandhu.

Photograph: Kind courtesy Rico_Loeb/pixabay.com*

I was driving to work one day when I saw a man lying motionless by his scooter in the middle of the road not far from a busy traffic intersection.

The traffic ahead of me had slowed down.

A couple on a two-wheeler had stopped and the woman was running towards him with a water bottle in hand.

Another person was rushing towards the traffic policeman to alert him.

I eased my car to one side of the road and dialled 100, the police emergency number.

The response was quick.

I told the police about the man on the road and the location of the intersection where he lay.

By then some people had already reached him and the traffic policeman was also moving towards him.

The scene I saw on the road that day was far from the callous image of Delhi that we read about in the newspapers so often.

People were rushing to help from every side.

I waited a few minutes by the road and then drove to my office barely five minutes away.

And then I got another call from the police, asking for more details about the location.

They had dispatched an ambulance to the spot.

 
"You called the police? Why?"
 

Later in the evening, I told a friend, who was once a crime reporter, about the incident and the urgency with which both the police and the people had reacted.

His reaction left me stumped: "You called the police? Why?"

"Why? Because it was a logical thing to do.

And the right thing to do."

"When there were others, why did you have to be the one to call the police?"

I was irritated. And upset. What kind of questions were these?

And what kind of reaction was this?

"Come to the police station and record a statement."
 

The next day I got my answer.

I was in office when a policeman called on my mobile phone.

His tone was brusque. "Parcha ho gaya hai (a case has been registered)," he informed me, ominously.

"Come to the police station and record a statement."

Record a statement?

All I had done was inform the police about an injured man on the road.

I knew nothing more.

Like me, others too had stopped to help in whatever way they could.

Now the policeman wanted the number of the car that was in front of me.

When I told him even that fellow had stopped to help, he was silent.

"Where do you work?" he asked.

I am a journalist, I said, and that seemed to change things a bit.

"Okay, fine," he said and hung up.

I was shaken.

A colleague later told me about a nightmarish experience his friend had had after he had taken a hit-and-run victim to hospital in his car.

The man had died and the police had impounded the friend's car.

Good Samaritan guidelines
  • Anyone calling the police or emergency services about an accident victim cannot be compelled to reveal their identity.
  • The police cannot force such a person to become a witness.
  • If the person does become a witness, the police can question him or her only once.

My experience left me thinking: How will I act the next time I see a person lying injured on the road?

Will I dare help or will I look the other way?

SaveLIFE Foundation, the Delhi-based non-profit, has released the results of a survey it had conducted across 11 cities about the Supreme Court-mandated guidelines for the protection of 'Good Samaritans' from harassment.

Instituted in 2016, the Good Samaritan guidelines say that anyone calling the police or emergency services about an accident victim cannot be compelled to reveal their identity.

And that the police cannot force such a person to become a witness.

And if the person does become a witness, the police can question him or her only once.

And yet, six out of 10 people surveyed said they were detained by the police.

And six out of 10 policemen said they take personal details of the people helping or calling to help an accident victim.

And over 33 per cent of the policemen admitted that they pressure such people to become witnesses.

Eight out of 10 Indians are unaware that something like the Good Samaritan law even exists.

From what I saw on the road that day it was evident that people want to help.

But they also need to have the confidence that their well-intentioned actions will not boomerang on them.

Else, instead of helping, they'll choose to shoot videos of dying, screaming accident victims -- examples of which we are increasingly seeing.

*Image posted only for representational purposes.

Veenu Sandhu
Source: