The Bombay High Court Tuesday confirmed the death sentence handed out to state transport bus-driver Santosh Mane, convicted for mowing down nine people in Pune in 2012.
“This is an exceptional and rarest of rare cases where the crime is so cruel, diabolical and revolting so as to shock the collective conscience of the society,” the court observed while dismissing Mane’s appeal against conviction and directing the accused to “be hanged by neck till he is pronounced dead.”
In their 114-page judgment, Justices V M Kanade and P D Kode wrote, “This is not a case of a driver of a public vehicle committing a road accident but a case where, after hijacking the bus, he killed innocent people and damaged public property undaunted by all attempts made to dissuade him from his killing spree of hapless victims. This is not a case where due to mechanical fault, he was unable to stop his vehicle. The magnitude of his crime cannot be brushed aside on the ground of his false plea of insanity which he raised after the gruesome and gory incident was over.”
Reportedly unhappy with his working hours as a driver with the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC), Mane had hijacked a bus on January 25, 2012. He allegedly mowed down nine people, leaving 37 injured.
Rejecting his insanity plea, the High Court had, on July 23, held Mane guilty of committing murder. The 42-year-old bus driver, who was convicted and sentenced to death by the sessions court in Pune on April 8, 2013, had also appealed the High Court against his conviction.
In May 2013, Mane moved the High Court challenging his conviction and death sentence. In September 2013, the High Court had set aside the death sentence and asked the sessions court to take a fresh decision on the quantum of punishment after giving Mane a hearing. The Pune sessions court again awarded him the death sentence on December 11, 2013.
Consequently, Mane once again filed an appeal in the High Court against his death penalty. While considering Mane’s defence of being mentally unsound, the court came to the conclusion that he was not able to prove that he could avail the benefit of Section 84 of the IPC under which any act committed by a mentally unsound person is not considered to be a criminal offence.
In their concluding observations, the judges wrote, “If such acts are condoned by commutation of death penalty, it definitely would send wrong signals to the society that individuals can take law into their own hands and get away with it on some misplaced and misconceived notions of sympathy, particularly when constitutionally held valid capital punishment is approved by the legislature and the apex court has given its seal of approval to it.”