Friday, August 3, 2012

BMW case - Sanjeev Nanda will not serve further jail term



High profile people – high profile cases or was it the nature of the case that brought it to fore ?

BMW is no commoners’ vehicle – it of the elitist. BMW [Bayerische Motoren Werke AG]   is a German automobile, motorcycle and engine manufacturing company founded in 1917. A BMW M6 convertible costs more than 1.31 crores on Indian road – many of us may not have even know to look at and marvel such wondrous beauty of cars ! 

In the wee hours of Jan 10, 1999 at Lodhi Colony, a BMW  vehicle mowed down six persons to death including 3 policemen – the driver reported was in an inebriated condition.  In September 2008, a trial court found Mr Nanda guilty of culpable homicide and sentenced him to five years in jail. But the Delhi High Court said that the prosecution failed to prove that Mr Nanda intentionally ran over seven men, six of whom had died. So, he was found guilty under Section 304-A (causing death due to rash and negligent act) and was acquitted of Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder).   The Delhi High Court did agree with the lower court  that, "Every possible effort was made to destroy evidence, win over witnesses and to influence the prosecution and police."  Most of that was caught on camera by an NDTV expose in 2008, where the lawyer for the Nandas, RK Anand, was seen offering the main witness in the case money to change his testimony.

The Delhi Police had appealed in the Supreme Court for a higher jail term of 10 years under stringent provisions of law. On Wednesday, the Apex court acquitted three people who were convicted by the Delhi High Court along with Mr Nanda for destruction of evidence in the case. Businessman Rajeev Gupta was sentenced to six months in jail while his employees Bhola Nath and Shyam Singh were awarded three-month imprisonment.

Reports collate that on that fateful morning Sanjeev Nanda was returning from a late night party in Gurgaon with friends Manik Kapoor & Siddharth Gupta. Both were in their early twenties and came from influential business families.  Sanjeev had apparently been instructed by his parents not to drive that night, but was at the wheel anyway. There was a police checkpoint on Lodhi Road and it appears that the constable may have challenged the car, though it is also possible that the car was going so fast that it was out of control. In any event, it is alleged that Sanjeev's BMW crashed through all the people at the police checkpoint, immediately killing two constables - Rajan Kumar (25) (of 86th Battalion of the CRPF), Ram Raj (38) of Delhi Home Guard.  Another policeman died later in hospital. The seventh victim  survived, but  became untraceable !!! The vehicle's broken registration plate was found on the scene the next morning. A 100-yard stretch near the police checkpoint was strewn with body parts and severed limbs amid pools of blood.

The car was then driven to a house in Golf Links, where watchman Bhola Nath and driver Shyam Singh Rana were asked  to clean the bumpers and bonnet of the car of the blood and vestiges of the victims. Subsequently the police charged these three with destroying evidence.  Later noted criminal lawyers involved in the case were caught on camera offering money to the eye-witness and the Delhi High Court barred the advocates from practising for four months

Press reports indicate that the brand new car with foreign no. plate had not been registered in India.  In Sanjeev Nanda's testimony he told Judge that he was not driving the car and was not the car's owner. Sanjeev Nanda was convicted and spent a few months in jail but was released on bail in May 1999. He was set a surety of a Rs 45 crore, subsequently reduced to Rs. 15 crore.

Sanjeev Nanda (born 1978) is a businessman and the son of Suresh Nanda, an Indian arms dealer, head of the firm Crown Corporation and an ex-naval officer. He is also the grandson of an ex-Chief of Naval Staff-turned businessman, S. M. Nanda from New Delhi.

Now the  Supreme Court has ruled that Sanjeev Nanda, who was charged with culpable homicide after running over six people in his BMW in 1999, will not have to serve any further jail time. Instead the court sentenced him to two years of community service and asked him to pay a fine of Rs 50 lakh, which will be used to help the victims of road accidents.  The decision effectively upholds the decision by the Delhi High Court to reduce his five year jail sentence to two years.

The case generated much outrage, especially after it emerged that Mr Nanda and his friends did not stop to help the victims, and instead raced away after the accident. The media has been trailing the case as there were reported attempts to show that the accident had been caused by a truck and not BMW and later that Nanda was not at the wheels.  Some reports state that  the judges “faulted Nanda for showing “no mercy” by not stopping to help the people he had injured.

Perhaps the full judgment when available will throw more light on the reasoning behind the lesser punishment… !!!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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