A division bench of the Bombay High Court, which on Tuesday confirmed death penalty to Santosh Mane, a former State Transport bus driver who killed nine persons on Pune roads on January 25, 2012, summarily rejected the insanity plea put up by defence lawyers. The bench observed that there was no evidence to support the defence claim of Mane, convicted for killing nine persons by “using the bus as a weapon”, was suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the act, which may have made him unable to fathom its gravity.
The bench of Justices V M Kanade and P D Kode on Tuesday confirmed the death penalty to the 40-year-old driver from a village in Solapur district observing that””commutation of capital punishment would send a wrong signal to society”.
Arguing before the division bench, Jaideep Mane, lawyer defending the accused, relied on “defence of insanity” under Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code, which grants immunity to a person who “commits a crime while being in a state of unsound mind thereby not knowing the nature of the act.”
The defence cited two reports by doctors at Sassoon General Hospital and Yerawada Regional Hospital. The first report based on examination conducted on the day of the incident observed that Mane needed psychiatric observation, complained of hallucinations and a feeling of persecution. The second report submitted by a panel of psychiatrists from Yerawada Mental Hospital after 10 days of observation maintained “possibility of a psychiatric illness couldn’t be ruled out.”
The defence produced a Solapur-based psychiatrist, Dr Dilip Burute, whose clinic Mane visited multiple times in 2010, and was treated for a mental situation diagnosed by Burute as “mania.”
The judges rejected the argument observing there wasn’t enough evidence to prove Mane was suffering from a serious mental disorder when he committed the act and that the evidence produced by the psychiatrist was “not reliable.”
“Mere prior incidence of treatment is not sufficient. It has to be established that at the time of commission of an offence, the accused was of unsound mind and was incapable of understanding the consequences of his action…the court is concerned with legal insanity and not medical insanity… the evidence does not show the accused’s cognitive faculties were completely or gravely impaire”, observed the bench.
The bench rejected Dr Burute’s testimony” “In our view, as a result of cross-examination of this witness (Dr Dilip Burute), his entire testimony has been demolished and it will not be possible to rely on the testimony of this witness… In our view, testimony of defence witness is not of any assistance to the accused. On the contrary, it supports the prosecution case,” observed the bench.