According to the latest ruling from the Kerala High Court, it is not illegal to talk on the phone while driving, unless it is established that the driver's actions endangered public safety. For a really long time, the government, carmakers and others ran campaigns to raise awareness over the hazards of using a mobile phone while driving. Now though, the division bench at Kerala High Court says that there are no provisions in writing in the existing law to book a person for talking on the phone while driving, it isn't an offence.
The ruling comes after a Kochi resident, MJ Santhosh, filed a petition as he was booked by the police under Section 118 (E) of the Kerala Police Act and Section 184 of the Motor Vehicles Act for talking on the phone while he was driving.
The case was disposed of without a fine and the court then established that until and unless a driver's action can be proven to have endangered public safety, it can not be considered an offence.
The court went on to say that there were no provisions in the existing Police Act deeming using a phone while driving as an offence. If a case has to be registered, the existing law should be amended and passed by the legislative assembly, it said.
Section 184 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 says: “Whoever drives a motor vehicle at a speed or in a manner which is dangerous to the public, having regard to all the circumstances of the case including the nature, condition and use of the place where the vehicle is driven and the amount of traffic which actually is at the time or which might reasonably be expected to be in the place, shall be punishable...” It goes on to prescribe fines but does not specifically mention the use of mobile phones.
The latest ruling could encourage more people to use a phone while driving since people could use this ruling as an argument against cops who intend to fine them. In terms of human capability and concentration, talking on the phone while driving (especially in the city) is dangerous. The ruling is merely a result of a loophole in a policy that was framed when mobile phones weren't around.
To break it down further, the laws and provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act and Police Act aim to be preventive - to prevent situations and conditions which would lead to an accident. Talking on the phone is a major distraction to the driver which, granted, may or may not end up in catastrophe. But we know that it can, so why create conditions to allow that! If I were to walk down a street wielding a sword, I may or may not hurt someone, but that doesn't mean I should be allowed to do that.