Reported By: Salil Tiwari
Last Updated: April 17, 2023, 23:41 IST
The HC said that for the purpose of bringing home the guilt of an accused, under section 304 IPC, based upon drunken driving and the resulting knowledge of the consequences, it is not essential, in every case, that there should be documentary evidence to prove the fact of drunkenness. (Representational image: Shutterstock)
A drunk IAS officer had allegedly rammed his car into the bike of a journalist in 2019, leading to the latter’s death. No blood test was done on the officer even after more than 9 hours of the incident
The Kerala High Court recently ruled that in a drunk driving case, the absence of a medical report regarding the level of intoxication cannot be a reason for discharge under section 304 of IPC if there are other materials to prima facie arrive at the conclusion that the accused was driving the vehicle after consuming alcohol.
The bench of Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas, however, emphasised that the absence of a medical test report may be fatal for the offence under section 185 of the MV Act.
The court was dealing with two pleas in connection with a culpable homicide case where allegedly the car of IAS officer Sriram Venkitaraman had rammed into the motorbike of journalist KM Basheer, resulting in the latter’s death.
In October 2022, the Additional District and Sessions Judge -I, Thiruvananthapuram, had discharged the bureaucrat under sections 304 (culpable homicide) and 201 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), section 185 of the Motor Vehicles Act (MV Act), and section 3(1)(2) of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act while framing charges against him under sections 279 (rash driving) and 304(A) (causing death by negligence) of the IPC as well as section 184 (drunk driving) Of the MV Act.
The court had also framed charges under sections 188 (abetment) and 184 of the IPC against co-accused Wafa Firoz who was in the car along with the IAS officer at the time of the incident.
The present two pleas, one by the state government against the discharge order and the other by Firoz against the order of charge framing against her, were filed before the high court.
The HC noted that the Sessions Judge had proceeded to consider the absence of a medical test report regarding the level of intoxication as significant while discharging the IAS officer.
The court highlighted that the prosecution had alleged that the IAS officer was in a state of intoxication as per the statement of the witnesses and also the doctor who first examined him, as was evident from the documents on record, that said there was the smell of alcohol.
However, the IAS officer could not be subjected to a medical test even after about 9 hours of the incident which had taken place at 1 am in the night, and when a blood test was done at 10.30 am the next morning, the sample did not reveal the presence of alcohol, the court underscored.
“It is relevant in this context to observe that facts can be proved by oral evidence as per section 59 of the Evidence Act, 1872, except, of course, the proof of contents of a document. If the oral evidence adduced inspires the confidence of the court or is worthy of credit, that evidence alone is sufficient to prove a fact,” the court observed.
The HC said that for the purpose of bringing home the guilt of an accused, under section 304 IPC, based upon drunken driving and the resulting knowledge of the consequences, it is not essential, in every case, that there should be documentary evidence to prove the fact of drunkenness.
If the circumstance of the case and the statement of the witnesses inspire the court to come to a conclusion that the accused was driving the vehicle in a drunken state, in the absence of a statutory mandate for a medical report, the absence of such a report by itself need not deter the court from arriving at such a conclusion, the HC held.
Accordingly, the high court set aside part of the order of the Sessions Court discharging the IAS officer of sections 304 and 201 of IPC.
However, the court upheld the portion of the order that had discharged him for the offences punishable under sections 184 and 185 of the Motor Vehicles Act (MV Act) and 3(1)(2) of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act (PDPP Act).
Moreover, the court allowed the revision petition filed by Firoz.
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