A day after Nooriya Haveliwala was convicted for culpable homicide not amounting to murder, in a similar case of drink driving, the Mankhurd police booked Chembur resident Aarti Shetty, 32, for causing death due to negligence, which is a less stringent charge.
Around 4.30am on Thursday, Shetty had lost control of her BMW, while drinking and driving, and crashed into an auto, injuring the four people in it. One of the victims, Mobina Sayyad, passed away early on Friday.
While section 304A (causing death due to negligence) is a bailable offence that attracts up to two years’ imprisonment, section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) is non-bailable and can attract up to 10 years’ imprisonment. SS Rajput, senior inspector of Mankhurd police station, said: “It is not a case of culpable homicide as the person driving under the influence of alcohol does not necessarily go ahead knowing an accident will take place. The driver’s own life is also at risk.”
Rajput said the police would review the decision after Shetty’s blood-alcohol report, which will show how much alcohol she had consumed, comes. “Once the report comes, we will consult with the police commissioner,” he said. Normally, it takes the forensic science laboratory at Kalina at least two weeks to send the report.
The police did not arrest Shetty after Sayyad’s death as the charges applied are bailable. Shetty, who was a journalist a few years ago and is now a homemaker, is recuperating at a private hospital.
Lawyers differ about which charges should be applied against Shetty. “In cases of drink driving, the police should register a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder,” said lawyer Wahab Khan.
Senior criminal lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani disagrees. “Culpable homicide can’t be associated with drink driving,” he said. “However, as the quantum of punishment for death due to negligence is less, in certain cases, section 304 has been applied.” He said the solution is to amend the law and make causing death due to negligence a non-bailable offence with stricter punishment.
Noted criminal lawyer Majeed Memon said: “While it is not necessary that the police apply 304, they should explore all legal possibilities to add that section to discourage people from drink driving. A message needs to be sent out that the law is not lenient.”