Salman & Sanjeev: A tale of two accidents

Both have been charged by the police under Section 304 of the IPC, which pertains to culpable homicide not amounting to murder. But comparisons between the recent Salman Khan case and the not-so-recent BMW case involving Sanjeev Nanda culminate with a distinct difference: while Salman was granted bail after 18 days in jail, Sanjeev spent almost 10 months behind bars.
According to IU Khan, public prosecutor in the BMW case, ‘‘After three witnesses in the BMW case turned hostile, Sanjeev finally secured bail after 10 months. In the Salman case, I am of the opinion that a lenient view was taken and, consequently, he was granted bail by the judge concerned after 18 days in custody.’’
Side by side, advocate Geeta Luthra points to another difference between the two cases which could explain the discrepancy in the period after which Salman and Sanjeev were granted bail. ‘‘Sanjeev tried to remove blood stains on the vehicle by washing the car — this amounts to removing evidence. Salman’s case is different in that he abandoned his vehicle and ran away from the scene fearing an attack from the public.
However, he, like Sanjeev, did not report the incident to the police.’’ In the words of advocate RK Anand, who fought on behalf of Sanjeev Nanda, ‘‘Both incidents are accident cases. As for why Salman managed bail after 18 days in custody and Sanjeev was granted bail after close to 10 months, everything depends on the judge due to grant bail being satisfied.’’
A flashback reveals that on January 10, 1999 Sanjeev Nanda was driving a BMW between Nizamuddin and Lodhi Road when the vehicle ran over and killed five persons and injured three others. Sanjeev was arrested later in the day. While both the lower courts and the high court initially rejected Sanjeev’s bail plea, he was finally granted bail by the high court after furnishing a bail bond of Rs 1 lakh.
Salman Khan, in turn, was driving a Toyota Landcruiser when the vehicle ran over four persons, killing one on the spot and injuring three others, at Bandra’s Hill Road early on September 28, 2002. Salman was arrested on October 7 and his bail plea was rejected twice by the lower courts before the high court granted him bail after he had spent 18 days in custody.
Going by legal technicalities, both Salman and Sanjeev have been charged under Section 304 of the IPC (culpable homicide not amounting to murder); Sections 337 and 338 (causing simple/grievous injury while driving a vehicle); and Section 279 (endangering human life while driving a vehicle). In addition to these Sections of the IPC, Salman has also been charged under Section 185 of the Motor Vehicle Act since he was not in possession of a driving licence at the time of the mishap.
Says joint commissioner (traffic) Maxwell Pereira, ‘‘Sometimes, it appears as if the application of the law varies — this depends on the specific charges and circumstances attendant on a person who applies for bail. For instance, although Delhi is witness to numerous fatal accidents, it is not always that Rs 19 lakh — as was directed in the Salman case — is granted as compensation.
Incidentally, Pereira maintains that the Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) needs to be amended: ‘‘We still follow legislation enacted in 1861 — there were no motor vehicles then and laws were aimed at horse-carriages.’’ Advocate Abhishek Singhvi, on his part, maintains that ‘‘the existing law requires amendment to increase the penalty for rash and negligent driving resulting in serious injury and death.’’ Surface transport minister BC Khanduri informs that ‘‘a review of the MVA is underway.’’
Beyond the views and reviews, the law will take its own course. Meanwhile, whether it is Salman Khan or Sanjeev Nanda, the last word on both cases is yet to be written.

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