I think it was a Friday, the night of Shab-e-Barat, last year. I was heading for my customary nocturnal drive. Came down the Moolchand Flyover and there was a huge traffic jam. In front of me, a few cars ahead-were gathered some bystanders and there lay an unconscious man on the road , bleeding profusely. Next to him was a two wheeler and the pillion rider. I got off my car, totally panicking- my brother’s body racing through my mind. The ambulance and the PCR had been notified a while ago but due to the traffic they couldn’t reach the spot. ”Someone pick him up so that we can take this man to the hospital”, I told the men. The ambulance was not going to make it on time. The pillion rider and a few of the bystanders picked the accident victim, put him on the back seat of my car and helped me to drive my Scorpio over the pavement, so that we could reach the Moolchand Hospital on time. What amazed me was, there was a police barricade on the opposite side and not a single cop had bothered to cross the road to help.
Thankfully, a family saw me taking this young man to the hospital and decided to follow me there. It took us maybe ten minutes to reach but unfortunately, by the time we did- he had passed away. The Doctor’s declared him dead but the pillion rider, survived with slight injuries.
A friend I had called up, had dropped into Moolchand to ensure I wasn’t too shook up. The family which had followed me to the hospital, had also experienced a recent loss. When the deceased’s family arrived, they were obviously distraught. It was too close to home for us- the one’s who had brought him to the hospital, watching the women of the household wailing uncontrollably and we just wanted to leave. We all stood there waiting for the cops. First the PCR arrived, then an Investigating Officer dropped in. They took the statement of the main eyewitness- the pillion rider and the Doctor. Questioned the rest of us, took down my personal details from my vehicle registration certificate- while obviously noticing there was no impact of an accident on any of the cars. They took down our phone numbers and asked us to leave.
The reason I’m recalling this extremely unpleasant evening, is because ten months later, the day before yesterday- one Mr Kumar, found his way to my house. When a vardi wala stands at the door and asks for, ‘Madam jo Scorpio chalatee hein.. unhone ne accident kara he’, the domestic help starts to panic. Turns out a petition has been filed, stating that there are loopholes in the case,…therefore, our friendly neighbourhood cop, decided to drop in for a visit. The usual, I’ve come from really far, I had to look for your house. ”I know you didn’t do anything but the family is very poor and wants 10-15 lakhs. Their daughter is getting married that’s why their lawyer will implicate you.” I totally ignored his request and told him I would come to the station, that day to do the needful. A neighbour who was listening to the conversation, said to me, “Never help anyone again. You’ve learnt your lesson.” My reply to that was, ”If the people who helped my brother would have thought the same thing, his dead body would have been stranded on the road!”
Nine years ago, my brother passed away in a car accident, in the middle of the night. He was all alone, dying in his car. A passing vehicle saw him and the driver and his friends pulled out my brother and took him to AIIMS. They called us up and waited for my Dad to arrive. I don’t remember the boys, neither does my father. The shock of loosing him was too great…we didn’t get into the pleasantries, at that that time. It will always be our regret that we couldn’t thank those strangers. But there’s a simple policy we follow- whoever we can help, we shall help. If we can’t thank or pay back the kindness of those strangers, we can definitely Pay It Forward.
Anyway, I spent a few hours alone in the Police Station- going from the Women’s Desk to the Reporting Officer to the Station Head Officer to the Investigating Officer, trying to understand the court petition and look at the FIR. Luckily, I have a Father who doesn’t like being yanked around. He told me before I went to the Station,” Tell them- if you’ve done something, your family is willing to send you to Jail and irrespective of what they say to you, don’t give them a single rupee.” Worked like a charm!
Since, it was a hit and run case, the lawyer who was representing the family could not find anyone to take the flak. Though, the main eyewitness to the accident, the pillion rider stated exactly what had happened in the First Information Report, they had not taken a written statement from the rest of us. The lawyer was suggesting that the IO had shown incompetence in the investigations, by not doing so, which is actually incorrect. Since, they had my details from the RC, the court wanted them to get my statement. The court just needed a statement to be submitted and the IO was trying to scare me, for his own reasons. But once, he realized that I wasn’t paying any heed to his hints, he quietly took down what I had to say. Though, there still may or may not be some legal ramifications that I will have to deal with, in the future.
This is despite the fact that last year the Ministry Of Home Affairs, had issued guidelines for protecting Good Samaritans. This appeared in an article written by Tarique Anwar for FirstPost, titled,’ Want to help accident victims but scared of the law. Fear no more.’ Take a look at the guidelines and how they were breached in my case.
1. If a person, who is not an eyewitness, moves an injured person to the nearest hospital, he or she should not be questioned and be allowed to leave immediately.
2. Good Samaritans should be exempted from civil and criminal liability, except in case of malafides.
3. Those who inform the police or emergency services about a person lying injured on the road should not be forced to reveal their identity and personal details.
4. Personal information such as name and contact details of those who come forward for the help of road crash victims will be voluntary and optional, including in the Medico Legal Case (MLC) forms provided by hospitals.
5. In case a person, who has voluntarily stated that he or she is an eye witness to the accident is required to be questioned for the purpose of investigation but the questioning will take only once. Standard operating procedures will be developed in 60 days to ensure that the rescuer is not harassed, intimidated or hassled by the police or courts.
Technology, such as video conferencing, should be used to examine a witness.
6. All registered public and private hospitals cannot detain or demand money for registration and admission of the injured unless the person who has brought the victim is his or her relative. The injured should be provided necessary treatment without delay.
All hospitals designate a minimum of 2 percent of its annual profits towards free treatment on injured.
7. Lack of response by a doctor in an emergency situation pertaining to road accidents, where he may be reasonably expected to provide care, shall constitute “professional misconduct” under chapter 7 of the Code of Ethics Regulations, 2002 of the Medical Council of India. Suitable disciplinary action will be taken as per the norms of Chapter 8 of the said regulations.
8. All public and private hospitals will implement these directions within a period of 60 days from the date when these directions are issued. In case of non-compliance or violation of the directions within the time prescribed, the licenses issued to operate these hospitals shall stand revoked.
I’m writing this because I don’t want anyone to be dissuaded by the incident. I believe that it’s our social responsibility to aid whoever we can. But after my visit to the Station , I’ve realized there are some precautionary measures one should take, considering the Police is not going to follow guidelines.
How To Help Accident Victims
1) Don’t try to pick up someone who has been injured- Only, in case of extra ordinary circumstances try to move a victim- you’re willingness to help, may harm them more. In the above mentioned case, due to the accident and Shab-e-Barat there was a terrible jam and there was no way for the ambulance to reach the victim, on time. Gauge the situation carefully and then decide on the best course of action. But first and foremost call the ambulance and report to the Police.
2) Try to protect the victim-While help arrives, try to protect the victim from further injuries, from other vehicles.
3) If you are an eyewitness to a Hit and Run take down the number of the vehicle.
4) In any case, however you may be involved- in terms of providing help, try to save your own skin, as well-
a) After, the above mentioned incident, I have realized that it’s best to give a written statement, whether the Police asks for it or not. Since, I did not witness the incident, at that time, they did not ask for it.
b)Keep a record of your own statement and the statements of the other bystanders.
c) As an afterthought, a visual entry of the incident would have been a good idea. Though, when you see a dying man, the last thing that’s going to occur to you is recording it, even if you are a photographer.
d) Call a family member or a friend to tell them about the incident, so that someone is there to assist you, if the need arises.
As the Supreme Court states, the Preservation Of Life Is Of Paramount Importance. Helping an accident victim is of grave importance and if once in a while you have to bear the brunt of it just think,”no good deed goes unpunished.”
P.s- Updated on the 10th of Feb- Over the past few days, I’ve got a mixed reaction about this post (many think I shouldn’t write about such things in details) and today morning, I was discussing this and someone passed a snide remark about how I drive alone… lah lah. It occurred to me that it would be a good idea to speak to the family that had helped me to take the victim to the hospital. Somehow I managed to get in touch with them. Though, “moolchand aunty” had not been asked to give a statement, she was quite willing to do so. She said to me, ”something’s are our moral responsibility and if we are inconvenienced by them, so be it.”