Over five years after Alistair Pereira, driving under the influence of alcohol, ran over 15 labourers sleeping on a Mumbai pavement killing seven of them, the Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a Bombay High Court verdict awarding him a three-year jail sentence.
The apex court bench of Justice R.M. Lodha and Justice J.S. Khehar cancelled the bail bond of Pereira, the 25-year-old son of a rich businessman, and directed him to surrender.
While upholding the conviction of Pereira, the court said: “The facts and circumstances of the case which have been proved by the prosecution in bringing home the guilt of the accused under Section 304 Part II (culpable homicide not amounting murder) IPC (Indian Penal Code) undoubtedly show despicable aggravated offence warranting punishment proportionate to the crime.”
Having upheld Pereira’s conviction and sentence, the court said: “It is high time that law makers revisit the sentencing policy reflected in Section 304A IPC (causing death due to negligence).”
Justice Lodha said “Seven precious human lives were lost by the act of the accused. For an offence like this which has been proved against the appellant, sentence of three years awarded by the high court is too meagre and not adequate but since no appeal has been preferred by the state, we refrain from considering the matter for enhancement.”
“As a matter of fact, high court had been quite considerate and lenient in awarding to the appellant sentence of three years for an offence under Section 304 Part II IPC where seven persons were killed,” the judgment said.
The judgment said that by letting away Pereira on the sentence already under gone that is just two months in a case like this,”in our view, would be travesty of justice and highly unjust, unfair, improper and disproportionate to the gravity of crime”.
The court said that it was true that the appellant had paid compensation of Rs.8.5 lakh but “no amount of compensation could relieve the family of victims from the constant agony.”
“We are satisfied that the facts and circumstances of the case do not justify benefit of probation to the appellant for good conduct or for any reduction of sentence,” the court said.
The judgment referred to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report which said that the total number of deaths due to road accidents in India every year was now over 1.35 lakh.
The NCRB report also stated that drunk driving was a major factor for road accidents.
Pereira, who holds an engineering diploma, was charged with running over 15 labourers sleeping on a pavement in Carter Road in suburban Bandra Nov 12, 2006, killing seven of them.
He was convicted by a sessions court April 13, 2007, which awarded him six months imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs.5 lakh that was to be paid to the victims of the accident.
Pereira challenged the conviction before the Bombay High Court, which Sep 6, 2007 confirmed his conviction and enhanced the sentence to three years. It also criticised Mumbai police for slackness in the investigation process and taking too much time to submit their report.
It was the high court verdict that Pereira had challenged in Supreme Court. He was granted bail at that time.