The Bombay high court (HC), on Tuesday, upheld the death penalty handed down to Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) driver Santosh Mane, who crushed nine people and seriously injured 36 others under his bus in January 2012.
On January 25, 2012, Mane requested his superior – assistant traffic controller Shashikant Damkale at Swargate depot -- to change his duty from night to day. As Damkale rejected his request, Mane left the office and hijacked a bus in the depot. For the next 45 minutes, he went on a rampage, recklessly driving the bus in high speed, crushing everything from pedestrians, two-wheelers, autos to four-wheelers.
“This is an exceptional and a rarest of rare case where the crime is so cruel, diabolical and revolting, so as to shock the collective conscience of the society,” said the division bench of justice VM Kanade and justice PD Kode, while confirming the capital punishment for the 42-year-old Solapur resident. The bench has stayed its own order confirming the death sentence for eight weeks, in order to enable the driver to approach the apex court.
“This is not a case where he was unable to stop the vehicle because of mechanical fault,” the judges said, adding, “The magnitude of the crime cannot be brushed aside on grounds of his false plea of insanity, which he raised after the gruesome and gory incident was over.”
The bench said that such a dastardly and inhuman act cannot be condoned, as doing so would send out wrong signals to the society that individuals can take law in their own hands and get away with it on some misplaced and misconceived notion of sympathy.
Mane’s counsel Jaydeep Mane contended that the driver was insane and had been under treatment of a psychiatrist for a long time, but the trial court did not take into consideration the defence evidence in this regard.
“It cannot be accepted that an insane act cannot be committed by a sane mind,” the judges said, rejecting Mane’s plea of insanity. The bench concluded that the bus driver was well aware of what he was doing after noting that he cleverly avoided major hurdles on the road. They also took into consideration that at one point of time, when the bus hit a road divider, he promptly took reverse and resumed his killing spree by entering the wrong side of the road.