The Supreme Court has recently set aside the judgment of the Gauhati High Court which held that a person can only be prosecuted under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 for the offences like rash driving, over speeding etc and not under the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

The Supreme Court has held that the Motor Vehicles Act and the Indian Penal Code operate in their independent spheres and a person can be prosecuted under both the statutes for an offence relating to road and traffic safety.
The Bench stated that though the Motor Vehicles Act is a complete code in itself, it does not bar that offences mentioned the Act cannot be prosecuted under any other statute.

The ingredients of the offences that are mentioned under the Motor Vehicles Act and Indian Penal Code are different and therefore it can be said that they do not supersede each other. Thus, an accused can be prosecuted under both for independent offences and the principle of primacy of a special law over a general law would not be applicable in such cases.

The Court further pointed out that Motor Vehicles are silent on certain offences such as death, grievous hurt or hurt whereas, the IPC do have these as a punishment of the matters which relate to the motor vehicles.

Another important aspect that has to be kept in mind is the relationship between the manner in which the crime has occurred with the punishment awarded. The maximum punishment awarded for the first time offenders in the Motor Vehicle Act is six months while under IPC; it can go to ten years.

The punishment imposed under the IPC is stricter and more proportionate to the offences relating to motor vehicle accidents in comparison to the MV Act. This becomes another reason for the simultaneous application of the two statutes, the judgment states.

Therefore, the order of the Gauhati High Court was set aside.

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