It is rightly said by James A. Forbes that:
A Good Samaritan is not simply
one whose heart is touched in immediate care and charity, but one who provides a
system of sustained care.
Good Samaritans are the ones who gratuitously give
help or sympathy to those in distress. India is a country where accidents occur
frequently and most of the people hesitate to involve themselves in helping the
needy ones. This hesitation collapses humanity and engages the people to stand
around the victim and just have a watch. People hesitate to involve themselves
because they think of the future problems that may occur to them because of
helping the accident victims.
To prevent such unlawful happenings, the
government introduced a law. The introduction of such laws has its goal still
harder to be achieved because of its unawareness. This paper clarifies the idea
about how the law passed, the impact of such law, the practice of that law in
other countries, the relation between this enacted law and the Indian Penal Code
and the reason for its introduction with the landmark case of Save Life
Foundation vs. Union of India.
The Importance of Good Samaritan Act In Regards To Protection of The Informants Identity And Effect
on Crime Prevention
A country like India, being on the stage of its development, has its rescue
mechanism also in a developing phase. This is because the rescue system does not
work efficiently in all nooks and corners of India. As India is a highly
populated country with huge traffic there will be a delay in emergency service.
In such places, the bystanders play a very important role in helping the injured
They are the only source of information to report about any accident or
any other irrelevant activities. But in the current situation, the bystanders
also hesitate to render their service or help the victims of accidents by
considering the upcoming problems to be faced by them from the police who
investigate or the hospital in which they admit the victim. Here lies the duty
of the state to give protection from any problems and encourage the bystanders
to volunteer themselves on their own will, to come forward and provide their
service or help to the victim of an accident.
The government considers a variety
of reports submitted by various organizations that came into the idea that 50%
of the accident victims can be saved if they are helped at the right time which
is known as the golden hour. Here comes the concept of Good Samaritan. They
are people who provide aid at the time of emergency to a person in need of help
by volunteering themselves. Thus, to encourage voluntary involvement and
protection to those people who render aid at emergency, the government enacted a
statute for Good Samaritans. It further developed when the Save Life Foundation
filed a writ petition against the union of India.
Save Life Foundation v/s Union of India
In a writ petition filed by Save Life Foundation
against the Union of India,
there arose a landmark judgment of the Supreme Court given by Justice V. Gopala
Gowda and Justice Arun Mishra on March 30, 2016. This made a pathway for the
formation of certain rules and laws to be practiced by the government
authorities, government and private hospitals, police officials and others
against any person involving himself/herself in helping any of the victims of an
accident or any eye witness for any of the crime or any accident which has
These people who voluntarily involve themselves are termed as the Good
as mentioned in the bible which is a parable told by Jesus in
the Gospel of Luke. Until this judgment was passed, the public was in fear that
any involvement in the above-mentioned act may entail them into legal
consequences or harassment. In a country like India, the role of such persons
plays a very important role, because the ambulance based rescue system cannot be
applied to all nooks and corners of the country and immediate arrival of the
ambulance at the spot is a tedious process.
The World Health Organization in
its report on Road Traffic Prevention, 2004 emphasized the fact that in
low-income countries, the most common disturbing factor which restrains the
public to come forward and help victims is the visible fear of being involved in
police cases. Therefore, this judgment gave way for the legislature to pass an
This case was moved to the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Indian
Constitution in the public interest for the development of a supportive legal
framework to protect Samaritans. The ultimate reason for the introduction of
this bill was that the Samaritans play a role in helping accident victims in
their golden hour in the medical field. The other aspect is in the judicial
field, where they take the role of being a witness, to prove any criminal guilty
of his offense. The golden hour is the survival time for any victim in case of
accidents. According to article 21 of the Indian Constitution, every human is
entitled to the right to life.
By this Fundamental Right granted by the Indian
Constitution, the victim also holds such right with him, meanwhile, every human
has a fundamental duty to help others and develop a brotherhood relationship as
mentioned in article 51-A(e) of the Indian Constitution. Meanwhile, according
to article 21, every citizen of India is entitled to the right to personal
liberty. If any of the unnecessary legal consequences arise due to helping any
victim then such legal consequences make that person be questioned and
investigated against his wish.
This violates the Fundamental Right guaranteed
under article 21. Questions can be raised that investigation cannot come under
violation of Fundamental Right, but the answer to this question would be, as the
investigation is taking place for an act done for the welfare and such
investigation leading to any harassment violates the Fundamental Right. To avoid
this violation the Department of Road Transport and Highways sent a letter dated
19.02.2004 to the States and Union Territories stating that the persons who
bring the accident victims to the hospital shall not be forced to produce any of
their identity, and they may produce it only on their wish, also they shall not
be detained in the hospital for any further interrogations.
On the above circumstances, the court formed a committee on 11.12.2012
consisting of 8 members to submit their suggestions before the court. Among the
submitted suggestions the committee mentioned identifying the buried facts, for
the fear of the public to help an injured victim and to form certain guidelines
to protect the Samaritans from harassments and legal issues. Such guidelines
provided the basis for upcoming legislative work in the light of safeguarding
the Good Samaritans.
Further, the court directed the Ministry of Road Transport
and Highways and the Ministry of Law and Justice to provide obligatory
directions concerning the protection of the Samaritans until any appropriate
legislation is drafted by the Union Legislature. The court also gave a common
privilege to give suggestions so that those suggestions add strength to the
From the above order of the court, the Central Government issued certain
guidelines that further flowed to be the rights of the Samaritans.
rights are as follows:
- The Good Samaritan should be allowed to leave the hospital immediately
except if they wish to stay further.
- The Samaritans shall be rewarded in a note to encourage the public.
- They shall not be held for any civil and criminal liability.
- They should not be pressurized to reveal their name and other personal
details. Disclosing such details shall be made voluntary including the
Medico-Legal Case Form provided by the hospitals.
- Violating any of the right granted to the Samaritans shall be considered
seriously and actions will be taken against the corresponding officers.
- If the Samaritan speaks a language other than the language of the
investigation officer, then the officer should appoint an interpreter.
The above-mentioned rules and regulations were framed by the committee and
suggested by the court to let it practice until the legislature frames the
actual laws. The Central Government considered shielding of the Samaritans from
actions taken on them, by the officials while they indulge in saving the life of
such road accident victims, as a result of which the Lok Sabha introduced a bill
named The Good Samaritan (Protection From Civil And Criminal Liabilities) And
Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2014.
 This gave way to make a notification in
the official gazette on 12th May 2015 by the Ministry of Road Transport And
Situation After The Bill
Once the act comes into force, the Central Government should constitute an
authority within six months and must nominate the chairperson who has knowledge
and experience in management, administration, public affair, health services,
social work or law. The members of this authority are one representative from
each state and Union Territory, who are appointed by the authority after
consultation with their respective states. The duration of the office is of 3
years from its formation. This authority executes its function by accepting
complaints of harassment or violation of Samaritans and proceeds legal actions
against the person who violates it.
They have the privilege to organize
campaigns to create cognizance about the law prevailing for the welfare of the
Good Samaritans and encourage the public in becoming Good Samaritans. The
educational institutions also have some responsibility in encouraging the
activity of such authority. They should conduct training to every student above
13 years of age in the field of first aid treatment and other procedures
followed in case of an emergency. Such institutions can also impart training
through any professionals or other institutions. Karnataka was the 1st state to
apply this law among the public.
Karnataka The First State To Establish Good Samaritan Law
Karnataka became the first state to establish Good Samaritan law with the
approval of the state cabinet by passing the bill, Karnataka Good Samaritan
and Medical Professional (Protection and Regulation during Emergency
with the help of Save Life Foundation which protects the Good Samaritans. In the
absence of Emergency Medical service, bystanders can play a crucial role, which
is, they can help the injured person within an hour. The law commission in its
report has stated that more than 50% of the people die in an accident due to a
lack of medical care within the first one hour.
A nationwide survey says that
50% of death in road accidents can be prevented if immediate medical service is
given to the victim. Another survey held that more than half of the population
refused to help the victim due to fear of the authorities. Half of the victims
die due to cardiovascular injuries, which is difficult to prevent while others
can be saved by the immediate life support given by the bystanders in the golden
hour. Karnataka is one of the top 5 states in road accident casualties. This
provided an object for the Karnataka government to introduce this law which
helps many bystanders in taking a step ahead to help the victims and to admit
them in the Hospitals. The law also protects medical professionals during the
examination of witnesses. The government, through this Act, extends financial
assistance to the bystanders to avoid attending the frequent legal procedures.
Rights Of Good Samaritan
Based on the guidelines suggested by the court and the committee, the bill
passed in Lok Sabha contained those guidelines as the rights of the Samaritans,
with few more additional powers of the Samaritans. Those rights/powers allow the
bystanders to deny providing any of their information, telephone number or any
other personal details related to them either to the investigating police
officials or the hospitals, against his will. This information can be obtained
by the hospitals and the investigators only by the wish of the Samaritans and if
that information is given by will then the complainant receives a copy along
with the acknowledgment for his records.
The Samaritans should be examined in a
maximum attempt of a single occasion either in a place where the Samaritans feel
to be convenient, and if it comes to be in a police station the consent of the
Samaritan is a must. Video conferencing can also be used to examine them under
the wish of the Samaritan. The Samaritan is not liable to pay any fee for
continuing any medical treatment. If the doctors wait and insist on service
after payment, then it constitutes Professional Misconduct. The corresponding
police officer should be accountable if such mentioned procedures are not
properly implemented by his subordinates.
Protection From Civil Or Criminal Liability
As mentioned in the above act, the Good Samaritans are excluded from civil or
criminal liability. But it is only to a certain extent. In the case of civil
liability, it says that emergency care would be provided only with the consent
of the injured person. The other one is that if the injured person is not able
to consent then his guardian or the person in charge of that person or from whom
the consent is possible to obtain in time to provide emergency care. The Law
says that the protection does not apply if the Good Samaritan has done the
emergency care negligently or recklessly.
Criminal liability says that the law will not extend to deaths caused by
intention. It also states that doing a thing, knowing that it would cause a
death of a person or incur some hurt to that person makes him liable. The
above-stated act also includes the abetment of any offense.
Punishment For Bad Samaritan
Bad Samaritan is a person who doesn’t help the one in need knowing that he will
not be involved in any danger or any other legal consequences. It is nothing but
the person who omits to do something, that is attempting to rescue, calling
emergency service or police. For example, in New York, a woman has been
stabbed to death where she cried for help for half an hour, and there were 38
residences in that park, where nobody volunteered themselves in helping the lady
or calling the police. The person who doesn’t volunteer themselves is known as
Bad Samaritan. European countries are strict in the sense that, under these
circumstances, they will be held criminally liable if they are in a position of
The position of Germany is that they would be liable only if they didn’t help
the person who is in a risk of bodily integrity. In France, the person will be
punished if they didn’t help the person who is in danger and this punishment may
extend to an imprisonment of 5 years or with a fine. The current law of England
and Wales says that any person of that country will be criminally liable for not
helping the person who needs help or assisting an endangered person in rescuing
the situation through the offense of gross negligence manslaughter. This kind of
activity that has been done in England and Wales will be criminally liable.
Practice In Other Countries
Similar to India, Good Samaritans live all over the world and they suffer
homogeneous problems as people face in India. Thus, there needs to be a similar
law in such countries like which is present in India. Each country prepares its
activities relating to the protection of such bystanders in considering their
economic and humanitarian activities. Some overpopulated and high earning
countries practice and execute this protection in the following methods.
- In USA
Since 1959, every state in America and the only district Columbia have been
given immunity to the person who helps the victims in road accidents. The people
are so fearful that they decline to get involved in other people's emergencies.
The protection that is given by the law changes from one jurisdiction to
another. The law gives immunity to the bystanders, policemen, firemen, and other
emergency occupations and also to those persons who render emergency service at
the time of the accident. In America to fully appreciate the Good Samaritan law,
it says that while a passerby finds another person in need of help and if that
person does not have any duty to save him and he volunteered himself, then he is
free to continue his way without any prosecution.
The Good Samaritan was first enacted in California in 1959. The law says that
any person who has helped the injured person in a good faith shall be liable for
the civil damages while rendering emergency care. After the law passed in
California, 30 other states have followed the same statute. After an accident
that had occurred to a woman, no bystander had volunteered to help the women due
to fear of civil damages.
Due to this, California and the other states have
changed the law that no medical practitioners will be affected if they have
provided emergency care to the injured person. In 1969, 37 states had Good
Samaritan statues, out of which only 24 had granted immunity to the bystanders
and other medical professionals. Out of 50 states, only 7 restrict the immunity
to the medical professionals, the other 5 states include protection to the
medical professionals, policemen, firemen whereas the remaining 38 states give
immunity to everyone.
- In China
Until 2017 China did not have any specific law based on Samaritan, so it allowed
the people to sue the person who helped them to claim the medical bill. In the
past years, China was infamous in Good Samaritan spirit, but a new law was
passed in March by the National people congress. This law protects the persons
who volunteer themselves in helping the injured people or to the people who are
all in danger. When a 2-year-old girl had been injured and been ignored by at
least 18 passersby without helping, the public trust became low regarding the
Samaritan law due to such unscrupulous scammers. Due to this incident, many
cities in China have introduced their Samaritan law to prevent these situations
from happening again.
- In Germany
The Good Samaritan law has emerged in Germany under different codifications in
the 18th and 19th centuries. One of the origins being the French Civil Code and
the other one being the Criminal Code is the same as Finland’s. If an individual
happens to be in a hazard and if any other individual volunteers himself to help
that person, the person will not face any legal consequences.
But the failure to
come to rescue the person in Germany is a criminal offense in which the person
will face both the civil and the criminal consequences. The German law Duty to
Rescue says that if any person who neglects to render service to the person in
danger or a hazard will be punished with imprisonment up to 1 year or be fined.
In Germany, 3 men were sued for not rendering help to an 83-year-old man who
had been injured and was lying down unconscious in the ATM.
The person who is
helping will be considered as an agent of necessity, as it is in the interest of
a person who needs help. It is well codified that the agent can demand his
expenses from the principle to compensate for the damages to property and the
health which he had sustained while helping the person. So the German court
under the Duty to Rescue act punished those 3 men with fine.
The Validity of Section 32 And 33 Of Ipc Concerning The Good Samaritan Act
Section 32 and 33 of the Indian Penal Code states about the illegal omission and
positive acts. Act means any voluntary involvement done by any people. If such
an act is done for the benefit of others or the benefit of him in a legal manner
then it constitutes positive acts. Illegal omission means any act which should
be done but the person does not do it properly or neglects to do it which causes
problems to others.
The important thing in a legal omission is that the doer should be aware of the
result of his act which is either done or not done. Under this concept, when the
act protecting the Samaritans is compared, the result will be that all people
should be in a state of helping others. The omission of helping, knowing their
situation covers the concept of illegal omission.
In a case Surendra Agnihotri v. State of M.P
 held in 1998, the
appellant stood in silence with folded hands outside the room where the deceased
burnt herself. The Supreme Court held the appellant not guilty of abetting
suicide by illegal omission
as he was not under any legal duty to
whose omission would constitute an offense. Thus according to this
judgment, if there lies no legal duty to protect others from their risk, then it
indirectly goes against the reason for the formation of the above mentioned Good
As dealt earlier, the main reason for the introduction of this act was to
improve humanity and to bring the volunteers to step forward for rendering
service at accident times to the victims. As per this judgment if there lays no
legal duty then no person would volunteer himself. If no person involves himself
then it runs against the term brotherhood as mentioned in article 51-A of the
Indian Constitution. This does not mean that helping others in an emergency
alone will improve humanity and brotherhood. It just adds an extra leg for an
improvement. Therefore sections 32 and 33 can give some exceptions in helping
and include the term legal duty to help others as a special clause under it.
The Good Samaritan law states that a bystander, with or without the consent of
the ailing victim shall render aid for the interest of the sufferer. This law
impliedly nurtures in achieving the goal Fraternity
, which is enshrined in the
Preamble of the Indian Constitution. In countries like Germany and China where
this law is in practice, imposes due punishment and fine if the by-stander
negligently forgoes from helping the needy.
In a densely populated country like India, these laws are not effectively
implemented nor are the people aware of its significant motive. Thus, stringent
laws including punishments and fine must be evolved so that people don’t fail to
extend their hands to the sufferer which in turn upholds ‘brotherhood’. Imposing
nominal fines to such waivers would organize people into a structured form.
Active participation of NGO’s and youngsters in creating awareness about such
noteworthy law is indispensable to make it successful.
Written By: Akshayan K S & Deepak N S
- Save life foundation v. Union Of India, (2016) 7 SCC 194
- (2016) 7 SCC 194
- Gazette Notification - No. 25035/101/2014-RS
- L.A. Bill No. 35 of 2016 (Karnataka Legislative Assembly)
- Ms. Karissa Tolentino, September 24, 1994
- Chai Ling, Fox NEWS (Oct. 22, 2011), http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2011/10/22/can-video-yueyue-toddler-left-for-dead-change-china.
- Justin Huggler, Four wanted in Germany for failing to save man under
'Good Samaritan' law, 31 October, 2016 (3:03PM), https://www.telegraph.co.uk
- 1998 CriLJ 4443, 7 January, 1998, https://indiankanoon.org/doc/714998/
- B.com.; LL.B(Hons.), B.Com.;
LL.B. (Hons.), Sastra Deemed To Be University;
Mail: [email protected]
, [email protected]