SC seeks re­port in ‘un­sound mind’ plea by killer ST driver

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) - - TIMES CITY - Swati.Desh­pande @times­

Mum­bai: Al­most six years af­ter an MSRTC driver hi­jacked a state trans­port bus and mowed down nine per­sons in Pune and four years af­ter Bom­bay HC dis­miss­ing his in­san­ity plea con­firmed a death penalty, the Supreme Court has sought a re­port on his men­tal health and be­hav­iour while in cus­tody since his ar­rest.

San­tosh Mane had on Jan­uary 25, 2012, re­quested his su­per­vi­sor for a change of duty hours from night to day. He was in ser­vice for 13 years by then. When his re­quest was de­clined, he took a bus at Swar­gate de­pot, did two rounds in­side and crushed three per­sons dead. He then took off out­side on the road for about 14-16 km, dodged gun shots from po­lice and turned a deaf ear to their com­mands to stop. He had run over six more peo­ple within 45 min­utes when he was stopped by a po­lice­man who en­tered the bus through a win­dow. Mane left 36 oth­ers griev­ously in­jured.

A ses­sions court, in 2013, held him guilty of mur­der, at­tempt to mur­der and de­struc­tion of pub­lic prop­erty. The crime was rarest of rare, it said, and not ac­cept­ing his de­fence of an un­sound mind, sen­tenced him to death. In 2014, the HC con­firmed the noose for him.

Mane ap­pealed against the HC ver­dict. It came up be­fore the SC bench of Jus­tices AK Sikri, Ashok Bhushan and S Ab­dul Nazeer on De­cem­ber 6. His coun­sel pri­mar­ily ar­gued that when the crime was com­mit­ted, Mane was of un­sound mind and, there­fore, should be given ben­e­fit of Sec­tion 84 of the In­dian Pe­nal Code (IPC). The sec­tion carves an ex­cep­tion and bars pros­e­cut­ing a per­son who is un­able to com­pre­hend, due to an un­sound mind, that his ac­tions com­prise a crime.

His lawyers sub­mit­ted that “in the al­ter­na­tive, even if he is not to be de­clared as a per­son of un­sound mind, there is suf­fi­cient…med­i­cal ev­i­dence which shows that the pe­ti­tioner was hav­ing hal­lu­ci­na­tion and also there was men­tal dis­or­der to some ex­tent,” and hence should not be sen­tenced to death. He pointed to “med­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tions con­ducted im­me­di­ately af­ter the in­ci­dent”.

“Be­fore we pro­ceed fur­ther, we would like to find out as to how the pe­ti­tioner has be­haved af­ter his ar­rest, in jail,” said the bench ask­ing the state to “ob­tain a re­port as well as med­i­cal record of the pe­ti­tioner in jail, if he was given any treat­ment etc”. The SC posted the mat­ter again on De­cem­ber 12.

A panel of doc­tors had ex­am­ined Mane be­tween Fe­bru­ary 1-6, 2012 in cus­tody and “found his be­hav­iour was that of a com­pletely nor­mal per­son,’’ the HC had noted. The doc­tor said “per­se­cu­tory ideas that some­body had played 'black magic' does not fall within the cat­e­gory of delu­sion and hal­lu­ci­na­tion.’’

“The mag­ni­tude of his crime can­not be brushed aside on the ground of his false plea of in­san­ity which he raised af­ter the grue­some and gory in­ci­dent was over,’’ the HC had said, hold­ing that the“trial court has rightly held that a false plea raised by him af­ter re­al­iz­ing the con­se­quences of his crime”.

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