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Telangana’s gig workers join nationwide protest against new hit-and-run penalties

Section 106(2) of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) punishes hit-and-run incidents with imprisonment of up to 10 years, and a fine.

What’s the news: Telangana Gig and Platform Workers Union (TGPWU) extended support to the drivers in India protesting against the hit-and-run provision in the new criminal Bill Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Act, 2023 on January 2, 2024. The TGPWU made the announcement shortly before the Central Government said it will hold consultations with stakeholders before enforcing Section 106(2), the hit-and-run part of the law.

What does Section 106(2) say? As per the law, “Whoever causes death of any person by rash and negligent driving of vehicle not amounting to culpable homicide, and escapes without reporting it to a police officer or a Magistrate soon after the incident, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description of a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

Many truck-drivers and other transport workers demanded a withdrawal of the penalties specified in this provision, even observing strikes in different states like Maharashtra, Punjab, Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh. According to Kamya Pandey, MediaNama’s Delhi-based journalist, she was travelling from Meerut to Kashmiri Gate but had to take a roundabout route to Noida due to the driver strike.

“So on a normal day I’d be at work by 9:15 AM if I was in a bus at 7 AM. Today I have reached at 9:45 AM. I was at the bus stop at 6:45 AM and I reached Noida at 8:12 AM. Let me remind you: I didn’t wanna go to Noida,” she said. Similar reports of strike-related traffic jams were reported in areas like Mumbai and Thane in Maharashtra.

Drivers fear abuse of law: Shaik Salauddin, TGPWU President and National General Secretary of Indian Federation Of App Based Transport Workers (IFAT), told MediaNama that drivers are worried the law may lead to their undue harassment. “The law does not discriminate between an accidental hit-and-run incident like when a car malfunctions and a hit-and-run incident like drunk-driving [where the driver could have done something]. If a driver ever ends up in such a situation, what legal process is there for the driver to prove that it was an accident? This is why we’re asking the Central Government to first hold a consultation with small and big vehicle drivers,” he said.

“The law is being enforced without taking representatives of the transport department into confidence… There are around 1 lakh taxis /Cabs in the state out of over 1.5 million taxis in India, in the country that generates employment for crores of people. Such a one-sided and unthoughtful provision is just discouraging them,” he said, adding that the provision has created panic among drivers, with many considering quitting their jobs.

Centre asks workers to end strike: On January 2, the Union Home Affairs Ministry said it has “taken cognizance of the concerns of truckers regarding the provision of 10 years imprisonment and fine, under Section 106 (2) of the Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita and held detailed discussion with the representatives of the All India Motor Transport Congress.”

It said in a press release that the new laws and provisions have not yet come into force and that the contentious sections will be invoked only after consultation with the All India Motor Transport Congress.

“We appeal to All India Motor Transport Congress and all the drivers to return to their respective jobs,” said the Ministry.

Organisations like Maadhyam that closely follow the activities of the government, criticised the Ministry for making such claims stating that “First consultations need to be held, then laws need to be made. Not the other way round. Will the Govt amend the law now or will it not notify that particular section of the law? What will happen when another set of stakeholders protest against some other provision of the law? There is a reason that Pre Legislative Consultation Policy 2014 is in place, which Govt only follows when convenient!”

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Written By

I'm interested in the shaping and strengthening of rights in the digital space. I cover cybersecurity, platform regulation, gig worker economy. In my free time, I'm either binge-watching an anime or off on a hike.

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