The Sessions Court yesterday convicted state transport bus driver Santosh Mane for killing nine people and injuring 36 others by driving recklessly through the city streets last year. The quantum of punishment will be pronounced on Monday. While pronouncing the judgment, Additional Sessions Judge VK Shewale said that Mane is mentally sound, and had complete knowledge of what he was doing. He hijacked the bus, and went on a rampage killing nine people and injuring 36 others. The judge found Mane guilty of murder, attempt to murder, theft and causing damage to public property.
In his defence, Mane had told court that he was a victim of black magic and karni. However, while reading the judgment in a packed courtroom, the judge said that these claims do not come under hallucination nor can they be classified as psychiatric symptoms. He said these were cultural beliefs. Refuting the defence lawyer’s theory that Mane was mentally ill and was being treated by a Solapur-based psychiatrist Dr Dilip Burate, the judge said the defence’s ‘star’ witness Dr Burate had presented false evidences before the court and to save the accused. The judge also said that Dr Burte has little regards towards truth and law. “While on a rampage, he did not dash into buildings and heavy vehicles. Therefore, no one can say that he was insane at the time of incident. Considering his ‘demonic act’, it is hard to believe that he did not know the consequences of his rash driving,” the judge observed.
The white lie
“Mane had visited Dr Barute’s clinic on February 19, 2010, and was prescribed some tablets. However, after that he had never went to him and that the defence’s argument that Mane was suffering from ‘persecuted thoughts, hearing voices, palpitation, black magic and used to have hallucination that the world is going to end and all the people in the world are going to be killed’ is actually a cooked up story,” the judge said in his verdict. He said that the main defense witness Dr Burate had testified and presented false documents showing that Mane had visited his clinic on several occasions and that he (Mane) has undergone Electro Convulsion Test (ECT) on several occasions. “The reports and the mentions in the register are false and fabricated. It is an attempt to save Mane from the clutches of law by proving that he is insane,” he said.
‘He was calm’
Speaking about the incident and the conduct of the driver before the incident, the judge said that on the eve of incident (January 24), Mane was given the duty of plying from Pune to Ganagapur and back again Ganagapur to Pune. He drove the bus to Ganagapur and returned back to the Swargate bus stand on January 24 evening, and during his journey, he had meals, didn’t have any fight with the passengers and lookednormal. On the same evening, he was assigned the duty of a town in Pune district and was put on the night shift. “After retuning to Swargate bus stand, he had dinner and slept well inside the bus. Besides, he didn’t complain of mood swing or other ‘said’ ailment. After he woke up, he went to the ST traffic control office and urged the duty officer to change his duty. However, due to scarcity of drivers, the concerned officers could not do so. Mane left the office around 7.30 am,” the judge said while convicting him. The judge added that when Mane left the office, he calm and have any fight with anybody. Around 8.05 am he hijacked the bus and went on rampage and killed nine people and injured more than 36 people and damaged more than 25 vehicles.
The judge said that when Mane was stopped at the Nilayam Bridge, he told the cops to mind their own business. “It seems that when he was told by the police that he had killed several people, he didn’t pay heed to them and tried to drive away the bus. He also tried to flee from police custody while being taken to a safe place. Mane indented to kill people,” the judge stated. The judge even said that Mane wanted to teach MSRTC officials a lesson for turning down his request for change of duty. Hence he stole the bus, went on amok, and was in his full senses. His intention was clear to kill people and damage the public property. The judge said that on February 1, 2012, while Mane was in the custody of the Crime Branch, he complained that he was suffering from some mental ailment and was shifted to a mental hospital for check up. However, after keeping him under observation for 10 days, a panel of doctors declared him as normal.
Case in point
>> After hijacking an empty bus, Mane drove the vehicle down the wrong side of some of city’s busiest streets
>> Mane had been a driver with the state transport corporation for 11 years
>> His lawyers had argued that he should be acquitted because he is mentally unsound
>> The judge rejected that defense outright, and said Mane’s intent was clear: “to kill or cause grievous injuries”
>> The judge said that Mane had asked officials to shorten his duty hours the night before he went on his rampage
>> His request was refused because there was a shortage of drivers
>> The next morning, he grabbed a bus whose driver had gone into the bus depot’s office to collect some documents
>> His crazed drive lasted nearly 45 minutes during morning rush hour. Eyewitnesses say they flung school children out of his way as he steered wildly through about 20 km
>> Traffic marshals had fired at the bus to force Mane to stop. But it took a college student to finally stop the bus driver. He managed to climb onto the bus and over-power Mane
>> The court said that Mane had been found guilty and penalised on two earlier occasions for rash and negligent driving