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In what could be a precedent, a city court has convicted Sanjeev Nanda, the grandson of former naval chief S M Nanda, in the BMW hit-and-run case holding him guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder as against a less stringent provision of causing death due rash and negligent driving.

Under such stringent provision of law, the convicted son of the famous arms dealer Suresh Nanda may be punished for a maximum period of 10 years of imprisonment.

Additional Sessions Judge Vinod Kumar while convicting Nanda along with three others observed that the entire criminal justice system should sit up to find effective ways and means to tackle a situation where wealthy and highlyplaced persons are able to thwart the entire course of justice and at later claim benefit of doubt as a matter of right.

The court turning down Nanda’s plea of benefit of doubt in view of witnesses turning hostile, said the criminal justice system has been hijacked by the high and mighty.

“This trial poses greater questions as to what is the meaning of fair trial and how should the court proceed when the witnesses are being won over and the trial is being hijacked by the high and mighty,” the court observed.

The Delhi High Court had already convicted senior counsels and noted criminal lawyers R K Anand and I U Khan for bribing the sole witness Sunil Kulkarni in the case. It was yet another case which had set a precedent by debarring the prosecution and defence lawyers from practicing in the Delhi High Court and its subordinate courts for four months for obstructing fair administration of the criminal justice system.

Thirty-year-old Nanda, a high-profile businessman, was calm and composed when the judgement was delivered and was taken into custody on the orders of the court. The court also convicted three others — businessman Rajeev Gupta and his two employees Bhola Nath and Shyam Singh — for destruction of evidence by removing the blood stains and pieces of flesh from the BMW after the incident.

It, however, acquitted another coaccused Manik Kapoor in the case.

The court explained that cases of drunken driving in high speed in a crowded place resulting in death would be covered under the category of murder.

Discussing the laws related to drunken driving resulting into death, the court said such vehicles could be termed as “death machine” on road.

“In case, a drunk driver drives a vehicle and kills a person, his case would fall under Section 304 II IPC, it must not be forgotten that a motor vehicle driven by a drunk driver is virtually a death machine on the road”, court said.

Perusing evidence, it said Nanda was intoxicated and knew that his driving could result in death of someone.

Nanda had mowed down six persons, including three policemen, in the wee hours of January 10, 1999 in Lodhi Colony area of south Delhi.

Sympathising with Sunil Kulkarni, a controversial eyewitness, who was earlier dropped by the prosecution after being condemned as “won-over”, the court said, “while assessing his testimony, it must be kept in mind that he was facing a public prosecutor who was acting in collusion with the defence counsel.”

Legal experts have welcomed the verdict. “It’s a good judgment,” said noted senior lawyer Fali S Nariman. However, Mr Nariman emphasised the need to have an appropriate law to deal with the witnesses turning hostile. The judgment talked such issue, said Nariman. Senior counsel Harish Salve expressed concern over delayed deliverance of the criminal justice system in the country. In developed countries, such cases are generally being decided in a year or two. But here it took nine long years to decide, said Mr Salve.

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