BMW case: Police challenges Nanda’s punishment cut in SC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today said it would give a preliminary hearing in July to the petition filed by Delhi Police challenging the High Court's reducing the punishment of Sanjeev Nanda for mowing down six persons with his BMW car a decade ago after the prosecution argued for enhancing the sentence for him.

The police has appealed against the July 20, 2009, verdict of the Delhi High Court which set aside the trial court's conviction under the stringent provision of culpable homicide not amounting to murder under section 304 (part II) that carried punishment upto 10 years prison term and handed down just a two-year term.

The High Court had convicted Nanda, 31, grandson of former Naval Chief S M Nanda, under 304A (causing death by rash and negligent act) of IPC which carries a maximum punishment of two years.

Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium, who assailed the High Court verdict for treating the offence as "rash and negilgent" act, contended the incident resulting in the death of the persons should have been considered along with section 86 of the IPC, the effect of which has been overlooked.

He said since the accused was in an intoxicated state, the High Court under section 86 should have attributed to him the knowledge of committing the offence.

"The test adopted by the High Court is wrong," he submitted before a Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices Deepak Verma and B S Chauhan which issued a notice to Nanda.

"I want examination of the matter. I am on the question of principle. I am on the question of law," he said amidst protests from senior advocates Ram Jethmalani and Mukul Rohatgi who were appearing for Nanda.

Jethmalani said not only the appeal by the Delhi police was time-barred but also a frivolous one to harass a young man who got married after the prosecution did not file the appeal for 180 days after the High Court verdict.

However, the Bench, which wanted to examine the question of law, pacified Nanda's counsel by saying it was not issuing any warrant against him. Further, it said the delay in filing the appeal was only of 51 days.

"We will post for preliminary hearing in July," the Bench said.

Rohatgi said the court can examine the question of law but not at the expense of Nanda who suffered the ordeal for 10 years.

"The court may examine the question of law but it should have no affect on respondent. I don' want the sword hanging over my head for another 10 years," he submitted.

His submission that the court should make clear that the result of the ruling will not have any effect on Nanda was not appreciated by the Bench which said "how can we say so"?

After the High Court verdict, Nanda served around five months in the jail. After his arrest in 1999, Nanda had been in prison for nine months and another 10 months after he was convicted by the trial court in 2008.

The High Court had also upheld the conviction of three others -- businessman Rajeev Gupta and his two employees Bhola Nath and Shyam Singh -- for destruction of evidence but halved their jail term.

Gupta's sentence was reduced to six months prison term from one year awarded by a trial court. His two employees were awarded three months jail term, down from their six months sentence.

Nanda's plea that he should be awarded less than two years of prison term on the ground that he had already disbursed Rs 65 lakh as compensation to the victims' family had not found favour from the court. PTI