“Settlement with Victim cannot absolve owner of bus of criminal liability”
Blood money law is not applicable in India. The settlement with the victims family cannot absolve any person, including the bus owner of any liability in criminal law. Under Indian law a crime is against society and offender is prosecuted by the State. It is not the victims responsibility to pursue the criminal case, it is the duty of the State to pursue and follow the criminal case to ensure that the guilty are punished.
In the present case, the bus owner is liable both under Civil as well as Criminal law. Both run parallel. One is not a substitute to the other. A victim is entitled for compensation under the Motor Vehicles Act from the owner. The victim can settle the civil compensation case with the owner, but the owner is also liable for the criminal case under the Indian Penal code. This criminal liability will stand unaffected by the settlement between the owner and the victims family. The settlement is in the civil case and does not affect the criminal case, which has to be prosecuted by the State. As such the liability of the owners for the criminal case would continue, despite the settlement (which has to be in the civil case).
The following points clearly bring out that the owner of the bus is also equally liable under criminal Law and should be made the accused:
- In Abhishek Goenka Vs. Union if India, WP(C) 265/2011, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has clearly held that the kidnapping and sexual assault on women is on the rise and a major contributory factor of such increase is the use of black films on windows/windshields of vehicles. In the present case, the windshields of the bus were tainted black and the rear back window of the bus was also completely blocked. The owners are totally responsible for this and should be held liable for the crime committed in the bus.
2. It has been reported in the media that the driver of the bus didn’t have a valid license, which makes the owner directly responsible.
3. In two recent cases, of the Nirbhaya murder and Uber taxi services case, the owners of the transport companies were held to be equally responsible for the crime. But in the present case the Punjab Police is working only to protect and shield the Chief Minister and his family.
4. It has also been reported that the bus did not have a Permit. This also makes the owner directly responsible.
5. It has been reported in the media that the Agriculture Minister of Punjab Totta Singh pressurized the family and the girl’s father and when the girl’s father Sukhdev Singh did not succumb to pressure, he was threatened of dire consequences. The Government’s Officials have also approached the employers of girl’s father to pressurize him.
6. This kind of interferences and pressurizing of the victim’s family and witnesses is sufficient ground to arrest the owners and keep them in a jail. Sadly, the Police is behaving like a servant of the Badal family.
A reign of terror is spread throughout the State of Punjab. Thus, whole state machinery is trying its best to shield the guilty bus owners i.e the Badal family instead of performing their duty to bring the guilty to book.
H.S.Phoolka (Senior Advocate)