Nanda’s sentencing deferred to Friday (Second Lead)

September 3rd, 2008 - 6:11 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 3 (IANS) A Delhi court Wednesday deferred to Friday the sentencing of Sanjeev Nanda, convicted for mowing down six people under his BMW car in January 1999. Additional Sessions Judge Vinod Kumar, who had Tuesday found Nanda guilty under Section 304 (2) of the Indian Penal Code for culpable homicide not amounting to murder for which the maximum sentence is 10 years, will now pronounce the quantum of sentence Friday.

Nanda, the grandson of former navy chief S.M. Nanda and son of arms dealer Suresh Nanda, was returning in an inebriated state from a party in Gurgaon with his friends Manik Kapoor and Siddharth Gupta in the early hours of Jan 10, 1999 when he ran over six people in south Delhi’s Lodhi Colony.

In its ruling, being hailed as a landmark judgement, the court said the rich and influential had hijacked the entire criminal justice and trial system.

A tense Nanda, who stood listening to the arguments with rapt attention in the crowded court room, gave a sigh as the sentencing was deferred till Friday.

Wearing a striped grey shirt and formal trousers, he kept wiping his brow every now and then, even as his friends and family members sat a few steps away, worry writ large on their faces.

Public prosecutor Rajeev Mohan demanded the maximum punishment for Nanda, a British national, saying the verdict should give a message to society.

“Deterrent punishment is the need of the hour, so that the right message is sent across the society to all potential offenders,” Mohan said.

During arguments on the quantum of sentence, the prosecutor referred to the adverse findings of the court against Nanda in its judgement.

“According to the findings, the criminal justice system has been tampered with by the mighty accused, who resorted to every unfair ways to botch up the trial. Hence, deterrent punishment of 10 years jail term be given to him so that in future, the mighty be refrained from polluting the justice delivery system,” Mohan said.

He told the court that the criminal justice system was being “polluted” by the behaviour of the convicts.

“They made every effort to hide the vehicle from public authorities (police) and they did not consider the humanitarian aspect for the injured hit by his speeding vehicle,” he argued.

He also added that the expensive BMW car was an imported one and was not even registered in India.

Countering the prosecution’s demand of the maximum punishment, defence lawyer Ramesh Gupta demanded reasonable punishment for the convict.

“Justice is at stake… ultimately judges have to decide whether it’s a media trial or a court trial. Media shouldn’t exceed its limits… then judges won’t be able to decide independently on the issues,” he said, referring to the media coverage of the high-profile case.

He said his clients had already paid Rs.6.5 million as compensation to the next of kin of the dead and the injured.

Gupta also submitted two affidavits in the court from two NGOs working in Tihar Jail stating how Nanda helped the inmates in learning about computers.

Prem Kumar, another counsel for Nanda, said: “Is it a crime to be rich?”

He also said: “Sunil Kulkarni, the so-called star witness, has suffered hostility of media and prosecution at every stage of trial, so his testimony is always under a shadow of doubt.”

While the court acquitted Kapoor, the other accused in the case, businessman Rajiv Gupta - whose son Siddharth was also in the car but was acquitted in August 1999 - and his two domestic helps Bhola Nath and Sham Singh were held guilty of destroying evidence.

Arguing for Sham Singh and Bhola Nath, senior counsel G.P. Thareja said his clients had merely followed their master’s command of cleaning up the vehicle.

“Is following one’s master’s order an offence?” he asked.

“How can a watchman and a driver influence the trial at any stage?” he asked and demanded lenient punishment for the two.

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