The Delhi High Court on Monday upheld the conviction of Sanjeev Nanda in the infamous BMW hit-and-run case but reduced his sentence from five to two years jail term.
Justice Kailash Gambhir convicted him under the milder penal provision for mowing down six persons, including three policemen, with his vehicle in 1999. The court also reduced by half the quantum of sentence against three others -- businessmen Rajeev Gupta and his two employees Bhola Nath and Shyam Singh, who were punished for destruction of evidence in the case. Gupta was sentenced to six months prison term from the one-year term awarded by a trial court. His two employees were awarded three months jail term instead of their six months sentence.
The court, in its 274-page judgment, ordered criminal prosecution of controversial eyewitness Sunil Kulkarni for misleading the court by giving false testimony. Justice Gambhir asked the Registrar General of the high court to initiate proceedings against Kulkarni.
Nanda's mother Renu broke down when the judge declared that his jail term has been reduced to two years. Nanda, 31, the grandson of former naval chief S M Nanda, has been in jail since September 5 last year, after being sentenced to five-year jail term by the trial court, barring a few weeks of interim bail. The legal proceeding in this high-profile case saw many twists and turns, with not only court hearings, but also out-of-court developments in the case grabbing the headlines for different reasons.
The case saw key witnesses turning hostile and Nanda's counsel R K Anand and former Special Public Prosecutor I U Khan being found guilty of obstruction of justice, following a TV sting that showed Kulkarni with them.
Nanda had crushed six persons to death while driving the BMW car in an inebriated condition in the wee hours of January 10, 1999 at Lodhi Colony in South Delhi.
The court turned down Nanda's plea that he should be acquitted in the case as he had disbursed lakhs of rupees to the families of the victims as compensation.
"If he was really so compassionate towards the victims, why did he take to his heels after causing the accident, knowing fully well the enormity of the casualty," the court said.
"One also cannot lose sight of the fact that every possible effort was made to destroy the evidence, to win over the witness and to influence the prosecution and the police," the court added. The court, however, took a lenient view towards Nanda, saying he had already undergone trauma and agony and faced trial for nine years, which must have affected his life, including his education, career and marriage.
The court, considering all circumstances, convicted Nanda under the milder Section 304 A (causing death by rash or negligent act) instead of holding him guilty under Section 304 (Part II) (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the IPC.
The trial court had convicted Nanda under stringent Section 304 (Part II), which carries a maximum prison term of 10 years or fine or both. Section 304 A carries a maximum jail term of two years only.
Nanda, in his appeal, had argued that the trial court had convicted him under 'media pressure' and on presumption. He had submitted that the trial court had erred in believing the controversial eyewitness to the accident, Sunil Kulkarni, who, he argued, was not present in the capital on the day of the incident.
Nanda had pleaded that the sentence of five years of rigorous imprisonment was excessive as in the hit-and-run case of Alistair Pereira in Mumbai, the accused was awarded three-year imprisonment. The police, however, did not seek an increase in the quantum of punishment, which could be up to 10 years, and pleaded for upholding the trial court's order.