Apex court commutes Santosh Mane’s death penalty to life term

Sushant Ranjan
Thursday, 10 January 2019

In September 2014, Bombay High Court had confirmed the death penalty and had rejected the defence argument that he be acquitted of murder charges as he had committed the crime during a feat of mental unsoundness. 

PUNE: The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday commuted the death sentence awarded to Santosh Mane, a driver of Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC), to life imprisonment. On January 25, 2012, after his working hours, Mane had hijacked a bus and allegedly went on a rampage mowing down dozens of people, killing nine. 

In 2013, a Sessions Court had handed out death penalty to Mane terming his crime as ‘rarest of rare’.

In September 2014, Bombay High Court had confirmed the death penalty and had rejected the defence argument that he be acquitted of murder charges as he had committed the crime during a feat of mental unsoundness. 

The driver, a resident of Kavthale village in Solapur district, who is now 47, had appealed to the Supreme Court against his conviction, with his lawyers arguing that he be given benefit under Section 84 of Indian Penal Code which grants immunity to a person who “commits a crime while being in a state of unsound mind thereby not knowing the nature of the act.”

On December 6, a bench of justice A K Sikri, Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice S Abdul Nazeer directed the government pleaders to obtain a report from Yerwada Prison to know how Mane has behaved during his stay there. “We would like to find out as to how the petitioner has behaved after his arrest, in jail during the intervening period from 2012 till date,” the bench said on December 6. 

On December 13, 2018, Advocate Deepa M Kulkarni, who represented Government of Maharashtra told the bench that she has received a report from the Superintendent of Yerwada Central Prison that the behaviour of Mane has been normal throughout the period he has been at the prison.

“After hearing the counsel for the parties for some time, we are of the opinion that the learned counsel for the appellant should visit the jail where appellant is lodged and have a meeting with him along with the local counsel. The jail superintendent shall arrange the meeting.”

“After hearing the counsel for the parties for some time, we are of the opinion that the learned counsel for the appellant should visit the jail where the appellant is lodged and have a meeting with him along with the local counsel. The jail superintendent shall arrange the meeting,” directed the bench.

The authorities of Yerwada Central Prison have submitted ‘behaviour’ report of former Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) driver Santosh Mane to Supreme Court on Thursday, stating that his behaviour had been ‘normal’ from the past six years in the prison.

A three-member SC bench had sought a report from the jail authorities about Mane’s behaviour during his jail stay and his medical record to decide on the ‘mentally unsound’ argument put forth by the defence lawyer.

Adv Nishant Katneshwarkar, the standing counsel for state of Maharashtra in the SC, said, “In our submission, we had opposed defence’s plea of insanity. We argued that both trial court and High Court had considered the documents pertaining to the case and had rejected the plea that he was unstable.”

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