Pune hit-and-run: Why rash drivers get away away with murder

A Pune realtor's minor son mowed down two techies last Saturday, got booked but secured bail soon. The Squirrels explains why most accused get away with murder.

Surajit Dasgupta
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7 infamous hit-and-run cases

7 infamous hit-and-run cases

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The recent incident involving the juvenile son of a real estate businessman in Pune, Maharashtra, who hit and killed two motorcycle riders last Saturday, has disturbed the nation as, unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. Hit-and-run incidents have been a cause of concern in the country for many years.

Highlights of Pune hit-and-run case

  • The suspect’s father, a real estate developer, has been arrested in Aurangabad
  • Three executives of two bars have been arrested for serving liquor to a minor
  • The teenage offender was granted bail within 14 hours, sparking outrage

In numerous instances, the victims have been innocent pedestrians or fellow drivers on the road. These cases drag on in the legal system. Families of victims face challenges in seeking justice and compensation.

We will deal with the need for stricter laws and traffic regulations to check the menace of underage and drunken driving later.

First, did you know that there are at least seven infamous cases of hit-and-run involving politicians, celebrities and the high-and-mighty, not limited to Bollywood actor Salman Khan?

1. In 1999, a former Chief of Naval Staff’s son Sanjeev Nanda killed 6 people, mowing them down under his BMW. He was convicted, but the Delhi High Court reduced his sentence.

2. In 2002, Salman Khan and his kin ran over pavement dwellers, killing one of them and injuring several others in Mumbai. Khan was acquitted by the Bombay High Court.

3. In 2003, actor Puru Raaj Kumar hit and ran over a person in Mumbai, killing him. He was arrested and later released on bail.

4. In 2015, high-profile lawyer Janhavi Gadkar drove under the influence of alcohol and crashed her car into a taxi, leading to the death of two people. She literally got away with murder! Last seen, she was holidaying in Europe.

5. In 2016 again, Siddharth Maharia, son of a Rajasthan MLA, killed three people and injured 5 in Jaipur with rash driving. He was arrested and charged with culpable homicide. He soon got bail and could not be convicted because the police struggled to bring witnesses to the court. CCTV footage was not enough to pin him down.

6. That same year, Kunwar Amar Singh, a politician from Uttar Pradesh, killed two people with rash driving. He was arrested and charged with culpable homicide. He was never convicted.

7. In 2017, Bengali model and actress Sonika Chauhan’s died in a car accident in Kolkata. Her friend and actor Vikram Chatterjee has been undergoing trial for the past 7 years.

The question is why these offenders get away with murder. Well, every case may be technically different, and each acquittal may have a different reason, but one disturbing thing is common across high-profile hit-and-run cases. Before we deal with that, let’s study the laws.

Good law, bad courts

Underage and drunken driving are illegal in India under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939, which was amended in 1989. Just think of how laggard our legal system is! No new amendment for 35 years!

A new law was proposed in 2023 that would impose a 10-year jail term on individuals involved in hit-and-run cases who fail to report the incident to police. But that is still a bill. It has not yet become a law.

Anyway, the existing law prohibits driving by a drunken person or by a person under the influence of drugs. Specifically, it states that anyone found with alcohol in their blood, regardless of the quantity, while driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle or riding or attempting to ride a motorcycle, is punishable. 

For the first offence, the punishment can be imprisonment for up to six months or a fine of up to two thousand rupees, or both. 

For a second or subsequent offence within three years of the previous similar offence, the punishment can be imprisonment for up to three years or a fine of up to three thousand rupees, or both.

As for juvenile offenders, just think of how ridiculous the courts can be. A minor who drove recklessly under the influence of alcohol was recently asked to write an essay as a bail condition.

We will state one out of the many factors that ensure that the accused is not convicted.

When the offender is rich, he hires the best of lawyers, spending lakhs and crores on the case. The humble sarkari vakil with a modest income is overwhelmed. Sometimes, as seen in the case against Manu Sharma for killing Jessica Lal, even the judge was in awe of Ram Jethmalani!

Imagine if the rival advocate and even the court can be awestruck, what happens to the ordinary pedestrians who appear in the court as eyewitnesses?

law hit-and-run Pune