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Good Samaritan should not be harassed, law must come to rescue: Delhi HC

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NEW DELHI, Dec 9: A person who chooses to help a person in distress should not be harassed for showing kindness and if he or she suffers in the process, the law must come to the rescue, the Delhi High Court has said.

The court’s observation came while granting interim payment of over Rs 5 lakh as compensation to the widow of a truck driver who died in 2018 while helping a victim of a road accident.

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“While he was returning back to his vehicle, which by all probabilities was properly parked on the side way, that he got struck by another unknown speeding vehicle and sustained injuries… We have to assume that being a ‘Good Samaritan’, he stopped his truck and responded to somebody in distress,” said Justice Dharmesh Sharma in a recent order.

“A person who chooses to take steps to aid a person a distress should not be harassed for showing kindness and if in the process the Good Samaritan suffers some injury or fatal consequence, the law must come to his rescue,” the court said.

The widow approached the high court against the claims commissioner’s refusal to grant compensation her on the ground that the deceased added peril when he met with an accident at own will, which was not in the course his employment, and thus no liability could be fastened for compensation.

The court said that a bystander who is a witness to the accident or is a good samaritan should not be harassed or intimidated in any manner merely because he voluntarily comes forward to provide immediate assistance to a victim of motor vehicle accident on public road and highways.

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The court stated that in the present case, there was no evidence before the commissioner to exclude the employer’s liability for payment of compensation under the Employee’s Compensation Act on account of any blemish on the part of the driver, including that he was under the influence of any alcohol or drug etc.

“This court finds that the learned commissioner while passing the impugned judgment clearly overlooked the broader or the larger aspect of the whole scenario that helping an injured on a public road/highway is prime duty of everyone. An individual, who out of sheer generosity helps someone in distress, is a ‘Good Samaritan’ according to the parable in Gospel of Luke in the Holy Bible,” it said.

The court stated that “Good Samaritan laws” shield a rescuer from being sued if the rescue miscarries except in cases of gross negligence or recklessness.

“Bad Samaritan laws – ‘oblige persons, on pain of persons in grave peril’

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i.e., by operation of such laws, statutory duty is imposed on people to take positive steps to rescue a person in ‘grave peril’. Such position of law can at times lead to morally disturbing instances such as the one in Uttarakhand wherein people chose to video graph a victim of motor vehicle fire instead of taking steps to rescue her,” the court stated.

The court said it has no hesitation in setting aside the order of the commissioner and remanded the matter to him to access and decide the quantum of compensation to be payable to the victim’s family claimants within a period of two months.

“However, considering the long intervening time that must have left the claimants virtually on the verge of vagrancy, the claimants shall be paid interim payment of Rs. 5 lakhs with interest 12% p.a. from the date of accident i.e., 25.06.2018, which be released to the claimant wife within a month from today, subject to future adjustment on final determination of quantum of compensation and payment thereof to the claimants,” the court ordered. (PTI)


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