The age old question: why people commit crime? Along with other possibilities, the reason could be that criminals think there is no chance of getting caught, let alone to be penalised. That’s why when committing a crime, from corruption to rape, no criminal thinks about future penalty for his criminal deeds. But when the question is of road accidents, it should be hard to escape the hands of law enforcement agencies. As every vehicle is registered with government agencies therefore all concerned authorities know who is the owner of the vehicle and who is the driver. The question is that when there is a chance of getting caught, then why transport workers are so careless and bold. The reason is that in our country no one cares for the law because of lack of implementation.
When a person thinks that he or she won’t be accountable or punished under law or in case of punishment will face slight punishment, then they will not care enough about being careful.See what is going on in road accident cases in the country. There are various kinds of punishments from imprisonment to compensation for road accidents. In our country only four compensation orders were given so far but none has been implemented till now and there is no sign of any one of them being implemented. Let us look at the four cases till now ordered to compensate to the claimants or to the heirs of the demised person in road accident.
The maiden compensation order for death in road accident was given in 2014 for the heirs of ex-news editor of Bangla Daily Sangbad. In 1989 journalist Mojammel Hossain Montu was killed in road accident and after a long course of 25 years the court ordered to compensate his heirs three crore taka. But the order is yet to be fulfilled. The second compensation order was after sad demise of renowned film maker Tarek Masud and photographer Mishuk Munier in a road accident near Manikganj in 2011. In this case court ordered to provide 3 crore 25 lakh taka to affected families and unfortunately this order was not obeyed till now as well. The third one was this year’s most talked about road accident where Titumir college student Rajib first lost his right hand and later on died due to two buses careless competition. The court ordered the two bus companies: BRTC and Sajan Poribohon to compesate 25 lakhs taka each, totaling 50 lakhs, to Rajib’s younger brothers. Most regretfully this one also is unfulfilled till now.
The last order of accident compensation was in the sorrowful death of two young students of Shahid Ramiz Uddin Cantonment College, when they fell victim of two buses shameless competition on the road. How daring were the buses of Jabale Nur company! They crossed the road and climb on to the footpath crushing Dia Khan Mim and Abdul Karim Rajib. How dare buses compete on the road to get a more passenger! However, after this fatal accident, the HC ordered the bus company to give 10 lakhs taka (5 lakhs for each family) immediately as temporary compensation. But this order as well won’t be fulfilled because the bus company declared to appeal against the order.
At this stage we can raise a question, according to 1982’s law, compensation for death in road accidents is only tk 20,000 and in proposed law it is increased to 5 lakhs. So, why High Court has ordered a big amount of compensation? The court ponders over many thing and orders by tort law. I think, in big amount compensation cases court could allocate part of the money to be given by the driver, the bus company, as well as the government and other concerned authorities.
When all four compensation orders are such and the offence is bailable, why should reckless drivers be careful while driving and vehicle owners obey the rules? They (drivers-owners) know that when there is any problem, any fatal accident occurs, no matter how many lives are lost, their leaders will save them. Whether it needs to make people scapegoat or blockade against the order of Supreme Court! Bangladesh is perhaps the only country where after verdict of capital punishment, transport workers called strike against the verdict. And the surprising fact is that no one had to face any punishment, not even for contempt of the court!
Where there is no accountability under law not only drivers but also no one will be careful about his/her responsibilities. So, in road accident cases there should be example of prompt implementation of court’s verdict. The culture of honesty in law enforcement agencies and implementations of the law could create sincerity among drivers and other stakeholders of transport companies.After the sad demise of Rajib and Mim, students agitation made sense to the citizens, as a consequence government initiated the Road Transport Act-2018. Though the word `safety’ was not included in the proposed law, we think it should be included for broader interest of passengers as well. As there is a provision in proposed law that if a death in a road accident could be proved as killing, then under article 302 of criminal code the driver will get death penalty or under article 304 of criminal code he will get life imprisonment. But it is hard enough to prove a death as a killing in road accidents.
However, in proposed new law: Road Transport Act-2018, approved by cabinet last week, maximum punishment for death by reckless driving increased from three to five years. Definitely, it’s not a rational and hard enough punishment for killing. As we see similar or lesser offence cases have tougher punishments. Such as robbery on highways at night has a fourteen years and defamation on social media has a minimum of seven years jail. The question: is taking life lesser than robbery and defamation?
The positive side for the proposed law is that, here jail-punishment for vehicles without fitness certificate and driving without license has increased. We know that reducing crime is possible only with implementation of binding law, besides the authority must ensure that the criminals do not flee from the face of law and are accountable for their crimes.