Talking on phone while driving not against law, says Kerala High Court

Lester Mason
May 17, 2018

On Wednesday May 16, a division bench of the high court including justices AM Shaffique and P Somarajan ruled that Kerala police can not register a case if drivers are found talking over the phone as there are no provisions in the law to put a person behind the bar.

A Division Bench of Justice A.M. Shaffique and Justice P. Somarajan on Wednesday upheld a single judge's ruling in 2014 - that in order to attract Section 118 (e), something had to be done by the accused to endanger the public - and observed that since there is no statutory provision stating that using a mobile phone while driving is risky, it was not possible to invoke Section 118 (e).

The court said the Police Act Section 118 (E) will be applicable only when someone's action endangers public life or causes an accident.

"In the absence of any statutory provision which prevents the use of a mobile phone while driving a motor vehicle, it may not be possible to infer that danger will be caused in the process".

Santhosh, who was thus charged, approached the Kerala High Court challenging this, stating that the mere possibility of such a danger was not punishable. Talking over mobile phone is not illegal and it does not cause danger to public or affect public safety! It was held by Justice Satheesachandran that section 118 (e) can not be raised against talking on mobile phone while driving as there is no constitutional provision to the effect that such use would harm the public. The assembly should pass an amendment to include these provisions in the Police Act to make it an offence. ".the human brain is not conditioned to perform two important tasks such as driving and talking on the phone at the same time. If I am walking swinging a sword on the road, would the authorities wait till I cut someone's head to apprehend me?"

Notably, this court's order is valid across all the states in India, except Jammu and Kashmir. It goes on to prescribe fines, but does not specifically mention the use of mobile phones.

The court further stated that the section 118 (e) can not be invoked for using the phone while driving. This section applies to any person "who knowingly does any act which causes danger to public or failure in public safety". Speaking to media, a spokesperson of the State Motor Vehicles Department said that the government will take necessary action after examining the verdict in detail. It also directed the government to cancel the licenses of habitual defaulters.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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