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Good Samaritan The Hope For Survival of Mankind

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 person.

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.[1]

Save Life Foundation v/s Union of India

In a writ petition filed by Save Life Foundation against the Union of India[2], 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 occurred.

These people who voluntarily involve themselves are termed as the Good Samaritan 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 act.

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 guidelines.

From the above order of the court, the Central Government issued certain guidelines that further flowed to be the rights of the Samaritans.

Thus the rights are as follows:
  1. The Good Samaritan should be allowed to leave the hospital immediately except if they wish to stay further.
  2. The Samaritans shall be rewarded in a note to encourage the public.
  3. They shall not be held for any civil and criminal liability.
  4. 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.
  5. Violating any of the right granted to the Samaritans shall be considered seriously and actions will be taken against the corresponding officers.
  6. 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.[3]  This gave way to make a notification in the official gazette on 12th May 2015 by the Ministry of Road Transport And Highways.

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[4] (Protection and Regulation during Emergency Situations) 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.[5] 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 immediate rescue.

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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.[6] Due to this incident, many cities in China have introduced their Samaritan law to prevent these situations from happening again.
  3. 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.[7]

    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 [8] 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 act 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 Samaritan Act.

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.

  1. Save life foundation v. Union Of India, (2016) 7 SCC 194
  2. (2016) 7 SCC 194
  3. Gazette Notification - No. 25035/101/2014-RS
  4. L.A. Bill No. 35 of 2016 (Karnataka Legislative Assembly)
  5. Ms. Karissa Tolentino, September 24, 1994
  6. Chai Ling, Fox NEWS (Oct. 22, 2011),
  7. Justin Huggler, Four wanted in Germany for failing to save man under 'Good Samaritan' law, 31 October, 2016 (3:03PM),
  8. 1998 CriLJ 4443, 7 January, 1998,

Written By: Akshayan K S & Deepak N S -; LL.B(Hons.), B.Com.; LL.B. (Hons.), Sastra Deemed To Be University;
Mail: [email protected], [email protected]

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