All the entreaties and arguments of Santosh Mane’s attorney failed to pass muster. The rogue driver, who hijacked a bus andmowed down nine people on Pune’s streets in January last year, was awarded the death sentence by Additional Sessions Judge VK Shevale yesterday, terming the crime ‘rarest of rare’. While pronouncing the quantum of punishment, the judge maintained that it is necessary to send a stern and strong message to the criminals in society.
The court rejected the pleas of the convict’s lawyer that Mane should be shown leniency, considering his age and chances of reformation and rehabilitation in future. The judge said that if the court were merciful towards him, it would send a wrong message to society that even after committing such a ‘heinous and gory’ act, someone can go out of the court with a ‘stiff collar’, and there would be no fear of the law.
“Looking at the conduct of the accused during the January 25, 2012 incident, it is clear that his intention was to kill innocent people, and in his rampage he had categorically avoided hitting large vehicles and buildings and only targeted small automobiles and pedestrians,” the judge said.
He added that Mane was instructed to stop by Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) officials Ajit Limye, Anil Diwate and Rajendra Gaikwad after he had knocked down two persons near the bus stand. However, the killer driver paid no heed to them and continued with his mayhem.
“When PMPML driver Amar Chavan, who was one of the main prosecution witnesses, boarded the bus outside Swargate bus stand, tried to stop Mane, and told him not kill people, the convict angrily retorted that it was ‘none of his business’, punched Chavan and then threw him onto the road. This shows that it was his aim to kill people and create havoc in the city, and hence no leniency should be shown to him,” the judge said.
The court also flayed Mane and Dr Dilip Burate, maintaining that both had tried to present false evidences, trying to prove that this was a crime of insanity. During the trial, it was proved that the defence’s claims regarding Mane’s unstable mental condition and before that he was previously receiving treatment at Dr Burate’s clinic in Solapur where he was also given Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), were complete lies. Judge Shevale has issued a perjury notice to Dr Burate, seeking explanation on why he should not be tried in a court of law for presenting false evidence.
The judge also said that Mane’s claim that he was driving the bus under the influence of ‘black magic’ and did not know what was happening at the time was an afterthought, and he along with Dr Burate had cooked up the story to get the advantage of section 84 (acts done by unsound mind) of IPC.
While arguing on the quantum of punishment, district government pleader and public prosecutor Ujjwala Pawar submitted before the court that January 25, 2012 was ‘the blackest day’ in the lives of citizens of Pune. “College and school students, citizens going to work, innocent pedestrians were killed in a brutal manner. The case falls in the ‘rarest of rare’ category. Hence, Mane should be awarded the death sentence,” she argued.
On the other hand, the defence counsel told the court that the driver had worked with MSRTC since 1999 and had never assaulted anyone before. None of the deceased had any enmity with him. He is the only earning member of his family. So, the court should take a lenient view on his sentence and give him a chance to reform.
While declining the request to give life imprisonment to Mane instead of the death penalty, the judge said that if he was sent to prison, Mane will get remission in the 14- year terms, and ‘there are politicians to help such people’.
The judge has considered this to be a rarest of rare cases and I am very happy with the quantum of punishment. This will send an appropriate message to society. The judge also threw out his mental-problem defence, as all the documents are forged. Considering the way he killed all nine, and especially Akshay Pise, Mane deserves this
— Ujjwala Pawar, district government pleader
I am very satisfied with the judgment. The incident is etched in my memory - I got injured, but my daughter lost her life in the mayhem unleashed by Mane
— Bhaurao Patil, father of deceased Pooja Patil
Whatever the families have lost cannot be recovered, but I am sure all the families are happy with the order. But, I believe he should be hanged immediately, as he does not have the right to live after taking 9 lives. He took away the father of my kids
— Nandini Gaikwad, wife of deceased Milind Gaikwad
We will be taking the case to the high court. I had sought minimum punishment as he is the sole earning member of his family
— Dhananjay Mane, defence lawyer
Did you know?
After he killed 9 persons, injured 37 others and damaged 25 vehicles, the state transport department only suspended, and not terminated, Santosh Mane from service. “An inquiry was launched by divisional-controller level officials. Now the panel may declare a decision based on the court verdict,” said Vijay Divte, manager, Swargate bus depot.