Using phone while driving is not an offence – Punishable only if you cause accident, says High Court

Kerala High Court rules that there is no legal provision that bars use of mobile phone while driving.

Even as the Rajasthan HC and other legal authorities across the country are gunning for severe punishment and cancellation of licenses of those found talking on mobile phones while driving, the Kerala High Court rules otherwise.

On Wednesday, the Kerala High Court has ruled that it is not illegal to talk on the mobile phone while driving. The police are not authorized to register any case against persons talking on mobile phones while driving and they cannot be brought to book or licenses cancelled as there is no such regulation or legal provision to this effect.

“There is no provision in the Police Act that bans people from talking over mobile phone while driving. Hence a person doing this can’t be assumed as one causes danger to the public,” the bench said.

This ruling was issued by the division bench consisting of Justice A M Shaffique and Justice P Somarajan. This was in reply to a reference made by a single bench concerning application of Section 118(e) of Kerala Police Act and a petition filed by Santhosh MJ against State of Kerala through advocate George Joseph Pulimoottil. The High Court stated that talking on mobile phone while driving is not an offence, unless it is proved to have adversely affected public safety.

The petitioner, M J Santhosh, a resident of Kochi was talking on his mobile phone while driving his car at 5.45 pm on April 26, 2017. He was booked by the police under Section 118(e) of Kerala Police Act and Section 184 of Motor Vehicle Act.

The Kerala High Court disposed off the case without any fine to the accused and ruled that police could only take action if it was confirmed that the person talking on the phone was in any way endangering the lives of others on the road.

This ruling by the High Court says that you can use phone while driving or riding, and it is not punishable. It is only punishable if you cause an accident, injury to others. But in that case, police will have to first prove that you were using phone.

Study has revealed that using mobile phones while driving or riding, increases risk of getting involved in an accident by a huge margin. By saying that it is not punishable, the High Court has indirectly increased the risk of getting involved in an accident for commuters.