This week Your Advocate is Barrister Omar Khan Joy, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh. He is the head of the chambers of a renowned law firm, namely, 'Legal Counsel', which has expertise mainly in commercial law, corporate law, family law, employment and labor law, land law, banking law, constitutional law, criminal law, IPR and in conducting litigations before courts of different hierarchies.
A few days back while I was going to office, a bus out of nowhere (the bus had no indicator at all), turned to it extreme right from the extreme left of the road and almost hit my car. When the bus stopped to drop off passengers at the middle of the road (!), I got down and charged the driver. He said that he did nothing wrong and most importantly he did not hit my car. When I asked him whether he had a valid license he said he does but will not show me and left. I would like to know what the legal remedy I have when we are the victims of such unruly/reckless driving. Most of them neither have valid license nor do they follow any traffic rules. Moreover, it has become a regular scenario that local buses stops at the middle of the road and take in and drop off passengers. In such circumstances can you please advice what legal remedy available to us?
Dear Ariyan, thank you for your query. It is unfortunate that such scenario has become a regular incident in our country, whether within the cities or on the highways. Almost all the buses are being driven absolutely whimsically and they stop anytime anywhere no matter what may be the result. We have mostly taken the same for granted and we hardly see any action being taken against them by the traffic police! I understand that you are particularly desirous to know the legal remedy for: 1) unfit vehicle, 2) driving without any license, 3) reckless driving and 3) taking up and setting down passengers at the middle of the road.
Let me first discuss the issue regarding the unsatisfactory condition of the vehicle. As per the Motor Vehicles Ordinance 1983 (the 'Ordinance'), before using any motor vehicle in any public place it is mandatory to get a certification of registration and a certificate of fitness. The Inspector of Motor Vehicles, before providing the fitness certificate, is required to ensure that the vehicle is not mechanically defective. Thus, while obtaining the required certificates, the vehicle is being tested (!) by the competent authorities.
In Bangladesh, most of the local bus owners do not have these certificates. As per section 152 of the Ordinance, such persons shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months' or with fine which may extend to two thousand taka, or with both. Moreover, the Ordinance also gives power to any police officer to detain such vehicles.
Even if the said certificates are obtained (properly or improperly!), driving or allowing a vehicle to be driven with defects or in an unsafe condition constitutes an offence. In such case, the owner or the driver of the vehicle may be punished with imprisonment or fine, or with both. Moreover, section 160 of the Ordinance also gives power to any police officer in uniform to arrest such person.
Now, let us come to the issue of driving without valid licence. As per section 3 of the Ordinance everyone should have a valid licence issued to him authorising him to drive any motor vehicle. It is also the responsibility of the owner to ensure that the person whom he is permitting to drive the vehicle holds a valid licence. As per section 138 of the Ordinance, if a person drives or allows a person to drive a motor vehicle, and more specifically any public service vehicle without a valid license, shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to four months, or with fine which may extend to five hundred taka, or with both. However, please note that, the driver of the motor vehicle is not bound to produce his license for inspection for anyone other than a police officer or any Inspector of Motor Vehicles.
As for the most important issue of “reckless driving”, the person shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to five hundred taka, and his driving license shall be suspended for a specified period. Moreover, the Ordinance gives power to any police officer in uniform to arrest such driver. I think all the local buses are driven recklessly all the times. Driving buses with due care is rather an exception.
Even though in every area there is a bus stand to take up and set down of passengers, it has become a common practice for the buses to stop anywhere on the road. As per section 137 of the Ordinance, such drivers may be punished with fine which may extend to two hundred taka.
Now, if you face such a situation in future, the first thing I would suggest you to do is to look for a traffic sergeant. If there is one, you can report the matter to him. On the other hand, if there is none nearby, you must take a note of the plate number of the vehicle and make a GD at the nearest police station. Besides we should all protest such reckless driving on the spot as opposed to just taking the things for granted.
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