Delhi High Court reduces BMW convict’s jail term to two years (Second Lead)

July 20th, 2009 - 8:45 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 20 (IANS) Terming it a case of rash and negligent driving, the Delhi High Court Monday reduced the jail term of Sanjeev Nanda, who had mowed down six people with his BMW in 1999, from five years to two. The court also asked the government to impose more stringent laws to curb drunken driving.
“It is a case of rash and negligent driving,” said Justice Kailash Gambhir, reducing the sentence. The trial court had convicted Nanda of culpable homicide not amounting to murder Sep 5, 2008 and sentenced him to five years in jail.

The court also ordered criminal prosecution of controversial witness Sunil Kulkarni for misleading the court by giving false testimony.

Nanda, who is a British national, was returning from a party in suburban Gurgaon with his friends Manik Kapoor and Siddharth Gupta in his luxury car in the early hours of Jan 10, 1999, when he mowed down six people in south Delhi’s Lodhi Colony area.

Besides Nanda - the grandson of former Naval chief S.M. Nanda and son of arms dealer Suresh Nanda, the trial court had also convicted Rajiv Gupta and Bhola Nath for destruction of evidence and sentenced them to one year and six months, respectively, in jail.

The Nanda family said they were satisfied by the judgement and would not appeal it.

Nanda’s father, Suresh Nanda said: “We are happy with the judgement and are in no mood to file an appeal.”

The relatives of the victims were, however, unhappy with the verdict.

“He (Nanda) is a rich man and can buy justice. First he was given less sentence by the city court, now the high court has even reduced the sentence. This is what you called justice - just two years for killing six men?” Poonam, daughter of Perru Lal, one of the victims, told IANS.

In his 274-page judgement, Justice Gambhir criticised the government for not taking steps to check the growing incidence of drunk driving on city roads.

“As the Indian economy is booming, the changes in the lifestyle of people are so visible. Even as darkness falls on the capital, the streets are full of cars, motorcycles, scooters, trucks, tankers and state transport buses. There are no stop signs, no speed limits and as the heavy vehicles go zig zag on the roads, it is hard to ignore the disturbing reality - many of commercial and private drivers behind the wheels are drunk and no one checks them,” he said.

Quoting a recent survey in Delhi, he said: “It has been found that drivers of more than 45 percent of vehicles involved in accidents consume alcohol and 50 percent of the road accidents happen because of drunken driving.”

The court also blamed the increase in the cases of drunken driving on the change in social culture. “Visibly, changed lifestyles and lack of parental and societal control over the youngsters results in indulgence into drinking habits and often these youngsters venture on roads in inebriated conditions risking the life of the pedestrians, companions and fellow drivers along with their own lives.”

“Today, India is making a mark in the world map due to myriad reasons but the internal situation of the country when it comes to public safety is gloomy. It is high time that government should become sensitive to the plight of the citizens and come up with stringent laws and better planning to curb drunken driving and such other menaces in the society which are reasons for fear in the mind of the pedestrians, each day, when they move out of their homes, whether they would safely reach home,” said the judge.

The judge was also harsh on all the controversies during the trial.

“An accident which was the result of a rash and negligent act was turned into a sinister game with ulterior design to defeat the justice delivery system. Not only we saw a wily witness in Sunil Kulkarni but also found that the prosecution was no less slippery,” he said.

“It is time to think and ponder how fast and to what extent we can take corrective measures to ensure that the justice delivery system does not become a laughing stock and is not reduced to a mockery by persons like Sunil Kulkarni and police officials of doubtful integrity. It also calls for introspection on the part of legal fraternity so as to ensure that the fair name of legal profession does not in any way come into disrepute,” he added.

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