In a controversial judgment, a businessman's son, charged with killing seven labourers by running them over with his car, was on Friday sentenced to a mere six months in jail.
Alister Pereira, 21, was found guilty of causing death due to negligence not amounting to culpable homicide (Section 304-A) and causing injuries (Section 337 of IPC) by Additional Sessions Judge A P Mishra, who criticised the police for their 'casual' investigation.
The sentence evoked protests from some lawyers and civil rights activists who said that this was yet another case of malfunctioning of the criminal justice system in the country after similar instances in Delhi and elsewhere in the recent past.
Pereira, an engineering diploma holder, was charged with fatally running over seven labourers sleeping on a pavement in suburban Bandra in November 2006 under the influence of liquor.
The judge ordered Pereira to pay a fine of Rs five lakh, to be distributed among the next of kin of the deceased and eight injured.
He was also awarded a sentence of 15 days for causing injury. Both sentences are to run concurrently. However, he was given one month time for appealing to the high court.
The court found there was sufficient evidence to hold Pereira guilty under sections 304 (a) and 337 of IPC. The judge said the police had carried out a very casual investigation and the prosecution failed to show that grievous injuries had been caused.
Correct photographs of the accident were not produced and material evidence required to be collected was not done by the police, he said.
The Pereira case brought to focus several other hit-and-run cases involving influential people involved in such accidents who activists feel get away with light punishments.
While the case of actor Salman Khan, who has been accused of killing a person sleeping on the pavement in the city by his rash driving on the night of September 28, 2002, was still on, there were other cases involving prominent personalities in which the sentences were considered lenient.