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Kerala High Court refuses to grant exemption from wearing a helmet on two-wheelers on the ground of a minor illness

The Kerala High Court, adjudicated upon a petition seeking an exemption from wearing helmets on a two-wheeler, on the ground that the petitioner found it inconvenient to wear helmets due to ‘High Headache’. The Hon’ble High Court held that there cannot be any exemption from wearing helmets while driving a two-wheeler for any citizen. Justice P.V. Kunhikrishnan of the Kerala High Court began his judgment by highlighting a message of the Hyderabad City Police, which emphasizes on the importance of wearing a helmet on a two-wheeler, Justice P.V. Kunhikrishnan noted that: –

There was a meaningful message from Hyderabad City Police on Twitter long back, which is even now available on ‘google search’ of internet, which reads like this:- “DON’T WEAR HELMET BECAUSE OF POLICE. WEAR IT TO MEET YOUR FAMILY AGAIN“. What a heart-breaking message!”

The Counsel for the petitioners submitted that due to high headache, the 1st petitioner is under continuous treatment of Giridhar Eye Institute Pvt. Ltd Ernakulam for the last several years. He has undergone Electroretinogram (ERG), Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) etc.It was further submitted that the petitioners are not able to cover their heads or put weight upon the head with helmet like articles. It was also submitted before the High Court that the 2nd petitioner is also under the same condition like the 1st petitioner and she is not able to bear any weight upon her head and hence not able to wear a helmet. The Hon’ble High Court, noting these arguments, put forward the rationale for wearing a helmet while driving a two-wheeler. Noting the observations made in Narayan Nair vs. State of Kerela [2003 KHC 1171] it was observed by the Court that: –

There is a clear rationale for the requirement. Human bones are brittle. These can break easily. The skull is a sensitive part of the anatomy. It needs to be secured. A protective headgear is essential to protect the head. It is not merely a part of the space suit that the astronaut wears on the voyage in the outer space. The law makes it incumbent even for those who move on motorcycle or scooters etc. in public places.”

“It is true that carrying extra weight on the head or in hand cannot be convenient. Yet, mere inconvenience cannot be a good ground to ignore the advantage or the mandate of law. We need to realize that it is better to wear the helmet than to hurt the head”

“In recent years, the society has seen the strides of science? Technology has brought about tremendous transformation. Speed has become the secret of success. But speed, if unchecked, can be suicidal. In any case, it carries a duty to take care. And we find no ground for the fear that even helmet can cause hurt. One swallow does not make a summer. A rare instance as reported in a paper cannot be a ground for rejection. Surely, helmets are being used all over the world. In all kinds of weather. Even by the cricketers and the cyclists. The need in the case of motorcyclists is even more. The petitioner has placed material on record to show that proper shape and standards have been laid down. The industry has to comply with the prescribed norms. And then, research is a continuing process. The design etc. can always be taken care of. Even weather conditions can be catered for. Other problems can also be resolved. For example: It should not be difficult to provide a hook to hang the helmet on the handle or anywhere else. There can also be a provision for a lock with it”

The Hon’ble High Court further supplemented its argument with the judgment of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh in Rajneesh Kapoor vs Union of India and Anr. wherein the Court laid down that  no citizen can claim the protection of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution on the ground that he is discomforted or flummoxed by wearing a helmet while driving or riding a motorcycle. The individual discomfiture has to succumb to the paramount objective of saving life. The High Court of Madhya Pradesh. While noting the gruesome nature of road accidents involving two-wheelers, observed that:

From the aforesaid pronouncement of law which have dealt with S.129 it is quite vivid that the provision has been enacted to avoid the accidents and disasters on the road. It is noticeable that two wheelers are mostly involved in the accident and life – sparks of the person driving or riding the said vehicle gets extinguished because of impact of accident. The gruesome accidents sometime sends chill down the spine and their sight on the road creates a shudder. It is always to be kept in mind that Art.21 is the most Organic and progressive provision in our living Constitution, the fountain head of our laws.

Justice P.V. Kunhikrishnan, in light of the above-mentioned judgements held that the petitioners were not entitled to circumvent the mandate of law by citing a mere inconvenience in wearing a helmet. The Court laid down that if the petitioners were uncomfortable traveling via two-wheelers, they could use other means of transportation. However, it was emphasized that it is the responsibility of the state to save lives and therefore, no citizen can put their own lives at unnecessary risk due to minor inconveniences. Justice P.V. Kunhikrishnan finally held that: –

I respectfully agree with the above observations of the Madhya Pradesh High Court. Hence I am of the considered opinion that, there cannot be any exemption to a citizen from wearing 

helmet while driving or riding a two wheeler. If the petitioners are suffering from any illness which disable them from wearing helmets, they have to abandon their two wheeler ride. They cannot avoid helmet in such situation while driving or riding, Wearing of helmet while riding a two wheeler is to protect the life of the citizen. Protection of the life of the citizen is the duty of the State: Therefore, there cannot be any exemption to the petitioners in wearing helmets, stating that they are suffering from some illness. There is no fundamental right to a citizen to use two wheelers without following the rules of the land. There is public transport facility and private transport facility available in the State. If the petitioners are suffering from illness, they can use the same. They cannot violate the law and ride two wheelers without helmets and escape from the Al cameras. An innovative system is introduced in the State to detect the violation of the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act and Rules by installing AI surveillance Cameras on the roads.

Case Title: State of Kerala & Ors. Vs. Seena M., OP (KAT) 95 of 2023

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