As per recent news reports, a lot of confusion has been brewing as to whether any driver would be penalized for the passengers in his/her car being in an inebriated state. As per the initial news reports[1], it was made evidently made clear that the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways’ new “Motor Vehicles Driving Regulations, 2017” (MVR), which came into effect on June 23, 2017, barred drivers from driving a vehicle with inebriated passengers. This news item was further covered by another newspaper[2], going so far as to provide the relevant excerpt from the Motor Vehicle Regulations, 2017, which is being reproduced hereinbelow:

“The driver shall strictly comply with the laws for the time being in force relating to the prohibition on the consumption of alcohol and drugs and smoking, and also ensure compliance there by the other crew, riders and passengers if any.”

It is pertinent to note that it was reported that the present regulations have not yet been implemented by the Kerala Government as on date, due to the implementation being a herculean task by the low number of staff and the several drawbacks.

However, somewhere along the line, with many other sources reporting the said news, an important fact was not mentioned in the news reports, and the information portrayed was that the Centre had directed cab drivers to not pick up any inebriated passengers. Understandably, this caused confusion amongst the populace, considering that such a rule being implemented across the country would be considered as regressive and would lead to a rise in such instances.

The confusion has now been reportedly cleared after an article containing statements of Kerala’s Joint Transport Commissioner was released. It was correctly pointed out by the said official that any major change made in law cannot be made over a gazette notification, and would instead require amendment to the Act itself. It has also been reportedly stated that the Motor Vehicles Department shall be stringent against drunk drivers, however, no action shall be taken against passengers who are found in an inebriated state.[3]

If one were to practically assess the situation, implementation of the said regulation by the Kerala Government seems to be a message to the state, that consumption of alcohol is going to be restricted to such an extent that it shall be wholly unfeasible to consume alcohol outside of the person’s residence, having no way to turn back. However, since the Government has not yet taken any action for implementation of the said rule, it can be safely assumed that this step might be subject to deliberations, as the livelihoods of cab drivers and prohibition of drunk driving need to be taken into consideration.