Pune: A Pune court reiterated its verdict Wednesday and awarded death penalty to a state transport bus driver acused of killing nine people and injuring 37 others as he sped through the city's streets last year, a legal official said.
The ruling was given by Pune Additional Sessions Judge V.K. Shevale, who finally disposed of the sensational case.
The accused, Santosh Mane, 36, was given the death penalty in April this year on the same charges by the same court. The death penalty was referred to the Bombay High Court for confirmation.
However, when the case came up in September, the Bombay High Court referred it back to the Pune Sessions Court as Mane pleaded that he had not been given a proper hearing in the lower court.
"The Pune Sessions Court gave him full opportunity to defend himself and also have his say on the sentence, whether he wanted to re-examine any witness to reduce his sentence," Public Prosecutor Ujjwala Pawar told IANS shortly after the verdict was pronounced Wednesday afternoon.
Pawar said in the past few months, Mane, a driver with Maharahstra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC), also underwent three check-ups at the mental hospital and all his reports were absolutely normal.
"He also did not deseve the benefit of insanity as he was mentally stable at the time of the incident and during the trial. The death penalty case will again go to the Bombay High Court for confirmation," Pawar added.
During the hearings in the trial, the lawyer for the accused pleaded that Mane was under the influence of black magic, but Additional Sessions Judge V.K. Shevale ruled that the claim does not come under "hallucination".
Holding that Mane is responsible for the deaths of nine innocent persons, Judge Shevale found him guilty of murder and awarded the death penalty as the case fell in "the rarest of rare category".
Indicating that Mane was not insane, the judge observed that he mowed down only people and did not ram the bus into objects.
Around 8.15 a.m. Jan 25, 2012, Mane hijacked an empty Pune-Satara-Pune bus at the Swargate ST Depot and zoomed off, driving at a high speed on the wrong side of the road, catching oncoming peak morning traffic and people unawares.
His high-speed drive lasted over nearly 25 km, during which he rammed stationary and moving vehicles, besides running over many pedestrians. He was later nabbed by police.
After his conviction by the Pune sessions court, Justice P.V. Hardas and Justice P.N. Deshmukh heard the matter for confirmation of the death sentence.
Mane pleaded before the high court that he was not given a hearing by the trial court on the sentencing, which the Bombay High Court upheld.
Accordingly, it transferred the case back to Pune sessions court to grant Mane an opportunity to be heard on the point of the death sentence, as "it would be proper and just".