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'Milestone' verdict for common man

New Delhi, Wed, 03 Sep 2008 NI Wire

The court verdict on the Sanjeev Nanda case popularly known as the BMW hit-and-run case convicting Nanda and three others will certainly have a far-reaching impact on our judicial system setting an example that no one is above the law and the high-and-mighty can not always getaway after committing crime.

Nanda and three others were accused of mowing down seven people leaving six dead including three policemen in the wee hours of January 10, 1999. The case had so far witnessed several twist and turns, as several eyewitnesses changed their testimony amid accusation that they had been bought off.

Though on one hand, it is a first-rate judgment like the earlier high profile cases of Jessica Lal, Priyadarshini Mattoo and Nitish Katara murder case, but the nine-year-old case has been in the symposium for all wrong reasons: delay in passing the judgment; the repeated cases of hostile witnesses; and then the illegal nexus between defence and prosecution.

The Delhi Patiala House Court on Tuesday held Sanjeev Nanda, the son of a rich arms dealer and grandson of former Navy chief, guilty under section 304 (part II) of IPC for “culpable homicide not amounting to murder” instead of charging them for 'careless and rash driving' which may have resulted in a lesser punishment. The maximum punishment in Nanda’s case can be written up to 10 years.

The judgment in this case is unique considering some earlier cases of drunk driving where accused got away only with a maximum imprisonment of two years under Section 304 (A). The verdict has already raised debates over the use of this provision in cases of drunken driving.

Apart from convicting the duo-prosecutor and defence counsel-the verdict witnessed the very existence of several loopholes in the justice delivery system. In this case particularly, two witnesses turned hostile thereby raising the issue to protect eyewitness. However, the filthiest one is the naked truth behind defence-prosecution nexus which was revealed through a television sting operation.

The Delhi High Court later found defence counsel R K Anand along with public prosecutor I U Khan guilty of contempt of court and obstructing the administration of justice. Both were convicted for influencing the eyewitness. Thus, issues including the long time taken, protection to eyewitnesses and gross misconduct of lawyers need to be addressed at large to keep alive the common man’s faith in the judiciary.

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