Though almost 20,000 lives are lost in the country annually in hit and run cases, conviction in such cases remains at a bleak 25-30%, due to a lack of evidence and eyewitnesses in such cases, according to experts.
In the last three years, between 2013 and 2015, the country has seen over 155,000 cases of hit and run in the country in which over 55,000 people have lost their lives and about 135,000 people left grievously injured, according to data from the Transport Research Wing, Ministry of Road Transport and Highway.
Delhi has been one of the most notorious cities in terms of the volume of hit and run cases in India, as the national capital registered over 2,000 deaths in hit and run cases between 2013 and 2015 and over 3,500 cases of hit and run during the same period, according to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways data. However, data for the number of accidents in 2014 in Delhi has not been provided by the Ministry.
Some of the most infamous hit and run cases in Delhi-NCR include the Mercedes hit and run case in which 32-year-old Siddharth Sharma lost his life last year and Santosh Kohli’s hit and run case in 2013. Kohli was the Aam Aadmi Party candidate during the 2013 Vidhan Sabha election. Sunita Narain, Director of the Centre for Science and Environment, was left injured after a car hit her from behind on the AIIMS flyover in South Delhi. Most recently, Vanita Garg, a young girl, was crushed under the wheels of a car that hit her while she was crossing the road near the Max hospital in Saket. All these cases are yet to reach conclusion.
Siddharth Sharma’s father, Hemraj Sharma, is still waiting for justice as more than a year has passed, but all the accused have been let out on bail. Speaking to this newspaper, he said, “It’s been more than a year and the trial in this case is going on very slowly, despite having all the witnesses and evidence. All the accused, including the parents and the child who was on the wheels that night, have been made accused in the case, but they are all on bail and roaming freely now. However, I still have hope in the justice system of this country and the courts and I believe justice will be done to my son.”
The parents of Santosh Kohli said, “Nothing is being done in the investigation of my daughter’s death. The case is going on in the Ghaziabad court, but we have not been made a party to the case. The FIR in the case is also goofed up and nobody has been nabbed yet in the case. It has been four years but nothing has moved. Even the party (AAP) has stopped supporting us now.”
M.B. Kaushal, former Delhi Police Commissioner, told The Sunday Guardian that the expression “hit and run” itself says why conviction in such cases is low as the accused mostly flee from the spot. “Such hit and run cases happen mostly on the highways or during the night where the accused do not get nabbed and there are no eyewitnesses to corroborate events to the police as evidence. Also, during night, the visibility of the number plates is low and attention is given more to the victim than the car that hit him. Therefore, chances of nabbing the vehicle also get reduced.”
“Lack of evidence and weak witnesses who mostly turn hostile and are sometimes planted by defence lawyers lead to low conviction rates in such cases. Also, in some cases, we see drivers being propped up by owners of cars to own up responsibility on their behalf. Therefore, to ascertain who actually was behind the wheels becomes a difficult task if eyewitnesses do not cooperate with the police,” Kaushal added.
However, the Delhi Police PRO told The Sunday Guardian, “In the Mercedes hit and run case, we have strong evidence and the chargesheet has also been filed and the case is in the trial court. Yes, in such cases, at times, lack of evidence and witnesses makes the case weak, but conviction rates are not so bad.”
With the increasing number of such cases in Delhi, recently, a city court in Delhi directed the Delhi Police to install CCTV cameras at all major intersections for better monitoring and capturing any such incidences.
Piyush Tewari, Founder and CEO, SaveLIFE Foundation, said, “Hit and run cases can be prevented and solved through electronic enforcement such as use of ANPR or automatic number plate reading cameras. This will also curb corruption and enhance the police’s capacity for enforcement. The challenge is with political will in the states to invest in technology for enforcement. The Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Bill talks about strengthening investigation and electronic enforcement and must be passed by the Rajya Sabha with urgency.”