Later today, the Bombay high court will consider increasing the fine imposed on Bollywood actor John Abraham who was convicted in a rash driving case, and decide on the quantum of compensation to his two victims.
It’ll make the headlines, and we might even view a post-mortem on the incident and a panel discussion or two on prime time television.
We’ll hear discussions and opinions on how the police do not act, that they do not do enough and that they’re ineffective. Consider what we’ve read about in Mumbai during the last few days:
• One girl dies, two others critically injured when their drunk friend drive the car they were travelling in into a tree. With reference to the same accident, The Times of Indiareports that “The Santa Cruz police have booked the five youngsters injured in Saturday's Juhu drunk-driving mishap for drinking without permit and are weighing if action can be taken against a Bandra pub for serving the youths alcohol without first verifying if they had permits."
• An eight-year-old boy sustained severe injuries after a speeding car rammed into him at Andheri (W) on Sunday evening.
• A 27-year-old man was arrested on Sunday morning for ramming his car into 12 persons and killing one of them in Kandivli (E) on Saturday night.
What does the police department do in cases like this? A carload of drunken youngsters, in a car driven by an underage drinker. Another two instances of accidents caused by rash, high-speed, irresponsible driving.
We hear of such instances every day. At best, the police can try and trace the culprits, file FIRs, prosecute them to the best of the ability and hope for the strictest sentence under the law.
None of this is preventive. All that will happen is that the already overstressed court system (and the police system) will get even more overloaded and overstressed.
For incidents such as these, prevention is the key – and the police and other authorities have nothing to do with this.
It’s the society which is failing – and leading to the spate of driving related crimes. Society fails when five underage youngsters drink. Society fails when one of these five, under the influence, is allowed to drive by the other four. Society fails when an indulgent parent allows an underage child without a license to drive a car. Society fails when educated adults do not wear a seat-belt or a crash helmet as the case may be.
It’s up to one section of society to prevent the other from breaking these laws and endangering lives. Can you tell a friend who is patently drunk not to drive? Can you tell your neighbour that his ward is too young to drive? Can you suggest to a colleague that it is not cool not to strap yourself in a seat belt or that he or she should always wear a crash helmet?
Today, when the court decides on John Abraham’s case, we’ll hear sound and fury and the police will face the brunt of the criticism.
And the truth is, the police haven’t failed us. We’ve failed ourselves.