CASE: Manoj Kumar K. v. State of Kerela
CORAM: Hon’Ble Justice V.G. Arun
The Kerala HC recently held that the accused should have been subjected to a breath analyzer or some other examination, including a laboratory test, in order to attract the drunken driving offence pursuant to Section 185(a) of Motor Vehicle Act, and his blood must be found to contain alcohol in excess of 30 mg per 100 ml.
The prosecution’s argument was that the accused drove his car rashly and negligently, endangering human life and wrecking it into another vehicle, causing the passengers therein to be hurt. The accused was arrested and the court noted in the medical examination report that “the doctor felt that the petitioner smelled of alcohol.”
The accused was tried under Section 185 of the Motor Vehicles Act on the sheer basis of that opinion. The accused’s challenge was that only when alcohol concentration is detected by a breath analyzer test will Section 185 be attracted.
Verbatim to Section 185 of the Motor Vehicles Act:-
Whoever, while driving, or attempting to drive, a motor vehicle,–
[(a) has, in his blood, alcohol exceeding 30 mg. per 100 ml. of blood detected in a test by a breath analyzer, [or in any other test including a laboratory test,] or]
b) is under the influence of a drug to such an extent as to be incapable of exercising proper control over the vehicle.
shall be punishable for the first offence with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine [of ten thousand rupees], or with both; and for a second or subsequent offence, *** with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine 5[of fifteen thousand rupees], or with both.
Explanation- For the purposes of this section, the expression drug means any intoxicant other than alcohol, natural or synthetic, or any natural material or any salt, or preparation of such substance or material as may be notified by the Central Government under this Act and includes a narcotic drug and psychotropic substance as defined in clause (xiv) and clause (xxiii) of section 2 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (61 of 1985).]
The Court takes reference from the judgement of Kerala HC in Sagimon v. State of Kerala (2014(3) KLT 782) and held that it was mandated to determine the alcohol level in the blood through breath analyzer tests until the 2019 amendment. The statute mandates the execution of either the breath analyzer test or all other laboratory tests after the amendment. In this instant situation, on the basis of a doctor’s opinion, the proceedings under Section 185 of the MV Act cannot be sustained without detecting alcohol in the blood by any breath analyzer/laboratory tests.
The court, therefore, quashed the proceedings against the accused in the following terms, only with reference to Section 185 of the MV Act:-Both decisions related to the interpretation of Section 185(a) prior to its amendment, which mandated a breath analyzer test to measure the level of blood alcohol. After the amendment, other methods can be used to assess the alcohol level in the blood, including a laboratory test. However, no such test is seen to have been conducted as far as the case at hand is concerned. As such, under Section 185 of the Motor Vehicles Act, the petitioner will not be prosecuted for the offence.