Taking calls while driving not against law, rules Kerala high court
The Kerala high court on Wednesday ruled that talking on the mobile phone while driving is not an offence, unless it can be established that the act, in the particular instance when the driver was caught, had endangered public safety.
A division bench of the court said that there are no provisions in the existing law to book a person for speaking on the phone while driving.
The high court was hearing a petition by MJ Santhosh, a resident of Kochi, who was booked by the police under Section 118 (E) of the Kerala Police Act and Section 184 of the Motor Vehicles Act for talking on the phone while he was driving.
The court disposed of the case without fine, and ruled that the police could take action only if it was established that talking on the phone while driving had endangered the safety of the public. It also observed that no provision existed in the state Police Act banning drivers from talking on their mobile phone.
If a case has to be registered, the existing law should be amended and passed by the legislative assembly, it said.
“There is no provision in the Police Act that bans people from talking over mobile phone while driving. Hence a person doing this can’t be assumed as one causes danger to the public,” the bench said.
“The court can’t rule that the person who speaks on a mobile phone while driving causes danger to the public. The assembly should pass an amendment to include these provisions in the Police Act to make it an offence. If the police had registered such cases in the state those concerned can approach the respective magistrate courts to quash their cases,” the bench added.
High court orders set precedents that could have an impact across India.
Section 184 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 says: “Whoever drives a motor vehicle at a speed or in a manner which is dangerous to the public, having regard to all the circumstances of the case including the nature, condition and use of the place where the vehicle is driven and the amount of traffic which actually is at the time or which might reasonably be expected to be in the place, shall be punishable…” It goes on to prescribe fines, but does not specifically mention the use of mobile phones.
Interestingly, on April 24, the Rajasthan HC had directed the state government to cancel licences of those caught talking on their mobile phones while driving and described the practice as a major cause of accidents. It also directed authorities to cancel the licences of habitual offenders.