Decided on August 07,2003

KERALA Respondents


JAWAHAR LAL GUPTA - (1.) Is the State bound to enforce the mandate of S. 129 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 that "every person driving or riding.... on a motor cycle shall, while in a public place, wear protective headgear"? This question was answered in the affirmative by Koshy. J. in O.P. No. 17480 of 1998. The decision was challenged in W.A. No. 1980 of 1999 on the ground that by Act 54 of 1994, S. 129 had been amended to provide that the headgear should conform "to the standards of the Bureau of Indian Standards." The appeal was allowed as "the change made to S. 129," had not been noticed. However, in this petition, it has been pointed out that factually there is no difference in ISI and BIS marks. In view of the public importance of the issue, the matter has been referred to this Bench.
(2.) The petitioner is an unfortunate parent. On February 9, 2000, his son Ranjit, a young man of 26 years, was riding a motorcycle. It hit against an electric pole on the highway. He suffered a serious head injury. It meant an instant end. The petitioner lost his only child. He complains that the State and its officers had failed to perform their duty. He laments if the driversand riders had been forced to wear helmets,, the accident might not have proved fatal. His son might have survived. He prays that a writ of mandamus be issued directing the State and its officers to enforce Section 129 of the Act.
(3.) In the counter-affidavit filed on behalf of the respondents, the mandate of law is not disputed. The necessity of "wearing of protective head gear has been recognized." In view of the increase in the number of accidents, the need for stringent steps is acknowledged. It has, however, been pointed out that the second proviso enables the Government "to provide for such exceptions as it may think fit". In the-exercise of this power, the State Government had issued a Notification on January 27, 2000 inviting objections and suggestions regarding its proposal to grant exemption to "any person riding on a two wheeler other than the driver thereof."The allegation that the Government has shown apathy, indifference or reluctance in enforcing Section 129 has been described as "absolutely incorrect." It has been "stoutly denied".;

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