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The deadly cocktail of drinking and driving may soon invite a more stringent punishment even for private vehicle owners in Himachal Pradesh.

Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal Thursday tabled a bill – the Criminal Law (Himachal Pradesh Amendment) Bill, 2011 – in the state assembly that now makes drunken driving of all vehicles a criminal offence.

The amendment removes a discrepancy and expands the scope of the law that originally dealt only with drunken driving involving public service vehicles.

The new bill proposes to bring all vehicles – both private and public service – under its purview by amending section 304-AA of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), inserted through a 1997 amendment in Himachal Pradesh.

Dhumal said it was observed that the provisions of section 304-AA were against the basic principle of equality enshrined in the constitution.

‘In order to remove the discrepancy, it has been decided to amend section 304-AA in its application in the state, and to substitute the expression ‘a public service vehicle’ with the words ‘any vehicle’,’ the chief minister said.

The section 304-AA awards a maximum punishment of life imprisonment or imprisonment for seven years for causing death or injury, respectively, by driving a public service vehicle while in a state of intoxication.

The bill is listed for discussion in the house Friday, the last day of the budget session.

According to a report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), drunken driving is a major factor for road accidents.

‘Almost 99 percent of the accidents that occur outside cities are due to drunken driving and there is no check on this,’ said the NCRB report

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