Observing drunk driving is a major cause of road accidents and that it is unfair to victims if courts show leniency towards the accused, the SC on Thursday upheld three-year rigorous punishment given to Mumbai-based businessman Alister Pereira for mowing down seven persons while driving a luxury car in November 2006.
Eight persons had sustained grievous injuries during the early morning accident in west Mumbai. Pereira's medical examination ascertained he had consumed liquor.Noting it was high time law makers revisited the sentencing policy under the section meant for accident cases, a bench of Justices RM Lodha and JS Khehar dismissed Pereira's plea challenging the September 6, 2007 Bombay HC verdict and refused to accept his plea for leniency.
Taking suo motu cognisance of media reports on trial court judgment sending Pereira to jail for just six months, HC had increased his sentence to three years. While the trial court had declared Pereira guilty of 'rash and negligent act', the HC held he had committed 'culpable homicide not amounting to murder', in which maximum sentence is 10 years.
The SC felt even the three-year punishment was too meagre and inadequate as Pereira had the "knowledge that his act of high-speed driving was dangerous enough to kill people asleep on the pavement."
It, however, refrained from ordering enhancement since the state did not appeal against the HC order. The stern SC order is likely to have a bearing on other such accident cases.
"By letting the appellant (Pereira) away on the sentence already undergone, that is two months in a case like this, in our view, would be travesty of justice… and disproportionate to the gravity of the crime," the bench noted. His counsel's arguments that Pereira had already paid compensation of R8.5 lakh and was the sole bread earner for the family, failed to move the court.