Holding Sanjeev Nanda guilty in the sensational BMW hit and run case, the court in New Delhi on Tuesday said the entire criminal justice and trial had been hijacked by the rich and influential persons.
Sanjeev Nanda, son of arms dealer Suresh Nanda and grandson of former navy chief SM Nanda, was found guilty of mowing down six people in the heart of the city with his speeding car on January 10, 1999. Additional Sessions judge Vinod Kumar found him guilty under section 304 (2) (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the Indian Penal Code.
However, the court acquitted his friend Manik Kapoor, who was also in the car, stating that the prosecution had not been able to produce any concrete evidence against him except for a mere fingerprint on the outer body of the BMW car.
The quantum of sentencing in what is hailed as a landmark judgment will be announced on Wednesday, after hearing arguments from prosecution and defence side.
This high-profile case has seen tortuous twists and turns with even the defence lawyer, RK Anand and the then special prosecutor, IU Khan caught in a sting operation carried out by a television channel while they were trying to influence star witness, Sunil Kulkarni.
A subsequent inquiry by the Delhi High Court found both lawyers guilty and barred them from practice for four months and fined them Rs 2000 each.
In a hard-hitting judgement Kumar said Sanjeev Nanda was drunk at the time of the accident that took place in south Delhi's Lodhi Colony in the early hours of the morning.
The maximum imprisonment for the crime under Section 304 (2) of the Indian Penal Code is 10 years.
“Sanjeev Nanda was so heavily drunk that knowledge can be validly imputed upon him that if he drives the vehicle he is likely to cause death of a human being passing on the road. Despite being drunk, the accused instead of carefully and slowly driving the vehicle, threw all the precautions away and drove the vehicle at excessively high speed,” the judge said in his 87-page order.
This is one of the first instances that a court has convicted the accused in a hit and run case under Section 304 (2). In most cases, the conviction is under Section 304 (1) - causing death by rash and negligent act - in which the maximum sentence is two years.
“I am of the considered opinion that this is simply not a case of hobnobbing between the defence counsel and prosecution but also at some stage in the background, the investigating officer has been influenced who deliberately indulged in such perfunctory investigation that it causes serious prejudice to the prosecution,” said the judge.
The other accused in the case, businessman Rajiv Gupta - whose son Siddharth was also in the car but was acquitted in August 1999 - and his two domestic helps Bhola Nath and Sham Singh were held guilty of destroying evidence.
“The prosecution has proved its case beyond reasonable doubt that Rajiv Gupta, Shyam Singh and Bhola Nath were having reason to believe that offence has been committed involving the BMW car and by washing the car due to which the blood on the car was made to disappear, though some blood and some flesh still remained on some parts of the car,” noted the judge.
According to the prosecution, Nanda ran over six people, including three policemen, that fateful night. During the arguments, the prosecution proved that Nanda was in an inebriated state at the time of the accident.
Those killed in the accident were Mehdi Hasan, Nazir and Ghulam and three constables Rajan Kumar, Ram Raj and Perulal.
There were three people in the car at the time - Sanjeev Nanda, Manik Kapoor and Siddharth Gupta. After the accident, they fled from the scene and reached the Gupta residence in Golf Links where Rajiv Gupta and his domestic helps washed off the stains.
The day after, on January 11, police arrested all six. While the three in the car were charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, the three who helped wash the car were accused of destroying evidence.