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