The Bombay High Court has rejected the bail plea of the driver of a luxury bus that plunged into a river off the Mumbai-Goa highway four years ago, killing 37 passengers and injuring 15 others.
The driver, Santaji Kirdat, was convicted on charges of rash driving, negligence, and culpable homicide not amounting to murder and given 10 years in jail by a trial court earlier this year.
Kirdat had filed a plea in the HC challenging his conviction and demanding that his sentence be suspended and he be released on bail till the appeal was decided.
Justice AM Badar, who heard the bail plea rejected it on Friday, observing that Kirdat had been speeding on a narrow stretch of a bridge at the time of the accident, and had knowingly put the lives of the passengers at risk.
The incident occurred around 3 am on March 19, 2013. The luxury bus carrying 52 people, including Kirdat and a conductor, plunged into the Jagbudi river. Thirty seven people including the conductor were killed in the accident.
Police in their probe found that the bus was coming from Mhapsa in Goa to Mumbai and Kirdat was speeding at the time of the incident.
The tyre marks of the bus revealed that even though Kirdat had applied the brakes, he could not control the vehicle and it fell into the river after crashing through the barrier of the British era bridge over the river.
The police probe also found that the bridge was just 20 ft wide and several passengers had gone to the driver’s cabin asking him to drive slowly.
Kirdat denied the charges and claimed in court that he had had no knowledge or intention to cause the death of the passengers.
Justice Badar however, rejected his argument saying, “Several passengers asked him (Kirdat) to slow down but he paid no heed to them. The road was only 20 feet wide. It cannot be inferred at this stage that the applicant/accused did not know condition of the road on the highway and he was not oblivious of the fact that the road/bridge is narrow.”
“The time when the incident took place is also relevant. Any person of ordinary prudence would not dare to drive a passenger bus at such speed at a pre-dawn hour. Therefore, it cannot be said the applicant was not having knowledge of the act that he was committing by driving the bus at such high speed and risking the lives of so many people, ultimately causing their deaths,” Justice Badar said.