Santosh Mane,the state transport driver who went berserk on city roads,killing nine persons and injuring 37 others during his infamous devil ride on on January 25,2012,was held guilty of murder by a district judge on Wednesday.
Additional Sessions Judge V K Shewale,who is hearing the case,will announce the quantum of punishment on April 8.
The judge refused to buy the argument of the defense lawyers,who contended that Mane was suffering from a serious mental disorder at the time of committing the crime. The judge described the defense of insanity taken by the accused as an after-thought and held that Mane was in a completely sound mind when he committed the demonic act.
On the morning of January 25,2012,Mane a driver with the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) hijacked a stationary bus from Swargate depot and went on a rampage that lasted for about 40 minutes. In the process,he mowed down pedestrians,motorcyclists,four-wheelers and several other stationary and moving vehicles.
The police and the citizens managed to stop his killing spree by forcing Mane to stop the bus near Neelayam Theatre bridge after an over 15-km chase.
Pronouncing the judgment to a packed courtroom,comprising the victims kin,mediapersons and lawyers,the judge said that Mane had committed the act to teach his senior officials at the depot who refused his request to change his night-out duty to a return duty on January 25 2012.
The accused has committed the murder of the nine persons by moving the bus dangerously with the intention and knowledge that the act was so imminently dangerous that it will cause death or bodily harm likely to cause death, said the judge,holding him guilty for culpable homicide as defined under Section 300 (4) of IPC.
Apart from murder,the judge also held him guilty under IPC Sections 307 (attempt to murder),381 (theft of property by a public servant),324 (voluntarily causing hurt) and Section 3 (Sub-section 2) of Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.
The judge observed that it was crystal clear from the evidence and testimonies provided by the prosecution that Mane was normal prior to the incident,while committing the act and immediately after the incident. So he cant the benefit of Section 84 of IPC that grants concession to illegal acts committed under unsound state of mind.
The conductor who accompanied Mane on January 23 and 24 to a trip to Ganagapur has said that he behaved completely normal and no act of his attracted any attention from the passengers or any other person,and also that he had sound sleep the night before. Also when he came to the allocation room,requesting a change in his duty and when he left at 7.30 am on the day of the incident,his mood was normal though the request had been refused, said the judge.
During the act Mane,did not dash any building that would have resulted in stopping the bus. When PMPML driver Amar Chavan entered the running bus and tried to stop Mane he knocked him down. When Lonkar entered the cabin he retorted and said that he had no business stopping and meddling in his affairs. When he was taken to the police station,he tried to flee. The call records show that around noon the same day,he made a call and spoke to somebody in Barshi in Solapur. All these facts speak volumes about his sound mind, said the judge adding that no mention to mental sickness was made by Mane when he was produced the next day in a magisterial court.
This shows that the idea of taking the insanity defense came as an afterthought,sometime when he was in police custody the first time, said the judge,as Mane sat in the dock expressionlessly.
Incidentally,the defense was relying on the testimonies of the defense witnesses psychiatrist Dilip Burte,who claimed to have treated Mane,and pharmacist Shivanand Shete,who sold him the medicines as per the prescription. The defence was also counting on observations recorded in a case paper by Sassoon General Hospital doctor,a few hours after the incident.
Both the defence witnesses are sailing in the same boat. An intellectual mind seems to have been applied and these defence witnesses seems to have been created with an aim to bringing the case under the ambit of IPC 84. But the plot lies exposed,with Burtes admissions that he treated Mane only once, the judge said.
The judge deferred the trial until April 8,when both the prosecution and the defense lawyers will argue on quantum of punishment to be awarded to Mane,after which a judgment on the sentence will be pronounced. Ujjwala Pawar is the public prosecutor in the case. Advote Dhananjay Mane is the defence lawyer and is being assisted by Jaideep Mane,Pradip Pawar and Rishikesh Ganu. Advocate Mane said that on Monday he will argue for leniency in sentence as the accused is the only earning member of his family.
Victims families speak on verdict
Nandini,Milind Gaikwad’s wife
Nandini,who had came along with her two children and her parents,says that they knew for fact that he (Mane) is not insane. It is unfortunate that the lawyer has taken a false stance,claiming that he is insane when he is not. A strong message needs to be sent out to people to deter them from committing such crimes. We hope that he is given the most severe punishment for what he has done.
Bhaurao,Pooja Patil’s father
Bhaurao,who was following the proceedings right from the beginning,did not mince words,when he stood outside courtroom no 38. He was visibly shaken,when he uttered the words: We have been demanding that he be given the death penalty right from the first day. He has been convicted and I know everyone who has lost a family member in that accident is demanding the severest of punishments under the law. We hope that the court will do that.
Shriniwas,Akshay Pise’s grandfather
Shriniwas says,Akshay was a bright boy… A happy person. Everyone in his college adored him because he was a nice boy. If only he had not gone to college that day,he would have been here,preparing to go and study in the US to become an automobile engineer. But perhaps all this was not in his destiny. The culprit (Mane) should be hanged to death.
Dhawal,Shweta Oswal’s husband
Dhawal says that the void left behind is irreplaceable,but a severe sentence will help them find some solace. It is a good thing that the trial has come to an end so soon. We hope that now he is either given life imprisonment or is hanged. Anything below that is of little consequence. The truth is that he sits there calmly even after having killed nine people,of which six were below the age of 30. A strong verdict will at least help ease the pain with which we have to live the rest of our lives, he said.