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Bus driver given death for mowing down 9 pleads ‘unsound mind’

Santosh Mane, a former state transport bus driver, who has been awarded death penalty for mowing down nine persons in a fit of reckless driving on Pune roads in January 2012, on Wednesday pleaded before the Bombay High Court that he was of “unsound mind” at the relevant time.

Mane’s lawyer argued that he did not have the motive to commit such a heinous crime and that at the time of the incident he was of “unsound mind”. A bench of Justices VM Kanade and PD Kode was hearing an appeal filed by Mane against his conviction by the Pune trial court.

To a query by the bench whether the trial court had observed that he was of “unsound mind” at the time of the incident, the lawyer replied in the negative. However, the lawyer said, at the stage of remand, the driver had filed an application in the trial court saying that he was of “unsound mind” and for that he needed treatment. The court had then asked a psychiatrist to give him medical help.

The lawyer further informed the bench that the trial court had rejected Mane’s plea that he was of “unsound mind”. The high court wanted to know whether Mane had challenged that order in a higher court. To this, lawyer replied in the negative but said he had a doctor’s certificate saying Mane was of “unsound mind”.

However, the high court said that it was not sufficient to have a letter from the doctor about the accused being of “unsound mind”. “You (Mane) cannot take such a plea just because you are being treated for this. The trial court should have given a finding to this effect,” the bench said.

The court was hearing an appeal filed by Mane against death sentence, along with the appeal on confirmation of death penalty given to Mane. In September, 2013, the high court had set aside the death penalty awarded to Mane, noting that the trial court had not heard him on the point of sentence. The court referred the matter back to the trial court, asking it to hear Mane again.

The trial court subsequently once again awarded him death sentence. It reasoned that the crime was of the “rarest of the rare” category as Mane had killed people by running them over with an ST bus, fully conscious of the consequences.

On January 25, 2012, Mane hijacked a state transport bus from Swargate depot in Pune city and went berserk as he drove it around, mowing down whoever came in his path. By the time police chased him down and stopped him, he had left nine people dead and 37 others injured.

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