For India-born US citizen Nooriya Haveliwala, 30, the courtroom proceedings were too alien, and her nervousness was palpable as she stepped up to the dock at 1pm on Thursday.
When special court judge IM Bohri told Nooriya that the prosecution had sought for maximum punishment, and asked, “What do you have to say about it?”, she looked at her advocate baffled.
A brief explanation later, Nooriya, who was dressed in a blue-white salwar kameez and came to court with her mother and friend, responded: “I have an old mother to look after. And I did not mean to do any harm.”
Her response was in tandem with her advocate Ashwin Thool’s plea for leniency. Thool, who contested for minimum punishment, informed the special court that Nooriya too had suffered losses during the course of the trial, and requested that she be given a chance to reform herself and rejoin society.
Her advocate told the court that Nooriya had shown remorse and registered a non-government organisation to work towards creating awareness to curb accidents related to drink driving.
Thool also pointed out that her father passed away soon after the accident, and that she is the only person to support her old mother.
After the judge announced she had been found guilty - of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and for rash driving - Nooriya was asked to go back to the bench as the judge started dictating his order. Through the dictation, which lasted for nearly two hours, Nooriya sat in the lobby, rubbing her eyes at intervals.
Finally at 1 pm, the court, before sentencing her to five years of rigorous imprisonment, remarked: “Considering the behaviour of the accused during trial, her youth and her old mother, I am of the view that a balance has to be maintained between the accused and the victims’ woes.”
She has also been convicted under various sections of the Motor Vehicles Act and the Indian Penal Code. But the court acquitted her of all charges under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.
Nooriya was taken into custody and is now temporarily lodged in Byculla women’s prison.
Once she receives the judgment copy, she will be shifted to either Yerawada in Pune or Nashik central jail. She will be required to put in hard labour during her prison term.
The court also imposed a Rs 5 lakh fine on Nooriya, of which Rs 2 lakh each would be given as compensation to the families of deceased sub-inspector Dinanath Shinde and biker Afzal Ibrahim Makhnojia. Policeman Shailesh Jadhav, who was seriously injured in the crash, gets Rs 50,000, while the three other injured get Rs 15,000 each.