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Life Sentence For Hummer Killer: A Positive Precedent

23/01/2016 12:56 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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STRDEL via Getty Images
Indian police personnel escort murder suspect Muhammad Nisham (C), accused of fatally wounding a security guard by driving into him with his car, at the Judicial Magistrate's Court in Thrissur on March 11, 2015. Beedi tycoon Mohammed Nisham, accused of killing a security guard by driving into him with his SUV, was held March 9 under the state of Karala's Anti-Social Activities Act, under which he will be denied bail for at least six months. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)

In a fit of inebriated rage, in the wee hours of 29 January 2015, Muhammed Nisham, the very wealthy owner of the King's group of companies, managing a reported turnover of Rs 5000 crore, rammed his Hummer into a hapless security guard, Chandrabose, then aged about 47. Nisham then beat the victim with an iron rod. Chandrabose was grievously injured and died a few weeks later. The incident happened in an upmarket apartment complex in Thrissur, Kerala. Nisham was enraged that Chandrabose delayed opening the gate of the apartment complex at about 3am that fateful morning.

Nisham apparently wasn't new to being on the wrong side of the law. He earned the sobriquet "Ferrari Dad" when he allegedly let his nine-year-old son to drive the luxury car and posted the video on You Tube. He has also been booked for locking up a woman police sub-inspector in his car when she tried to take the keys to prevent him from getting away during a routine check. In each of these incidents he got away with a rap on the wrist, but this time he went too far.

On 21 January, 2016, Nisham was sentenced to a life term by a Kerala court.

The Supreme Court had earlier observed that this case "was an example of how the rich in India have become entirely egocentric and megalomaniacs".

While the huge pendency of cases in courts across the country has been a subject of many a debate, here is a case that has progressed from investigation to judgement within a year from the date of occurrence. K P Sudheer, Additional District and Sessions Judge, Thrissur, Kerala, sentenced Nisham to a life sentence for the offence of murder and a further period of 24 years for connected offences. From reports, it appears that the sentences will not run concurrently but consecutively. The Supreme Court had also earlier observed in an application filed by Nisham that this case "was an example of how the rich in India have become entirely egocentric and megalomaniacs".

Another very important part of the judgement is the fine of Rs 80.30 lakh out of which Rs 50 lakh is to be paid to the deceased's widow. This is a very positive aspect of the judgement and will come as a relief to those who have been most unexpectedly and unjustifiably deprived of an existing means to livelihood.

While the prosecution argued for the death sentence and a fine of Rs 5 cores, the judge rejected the contentions that this murder fell within the "rarest of rare" cases. I'd have to concur, given that this was a crime driven by impulse and not premeditated. Justice will still be done, especially since Nisham will be serving his sentences consecutively and not concurrently. This will ensure that he remains in prison a period of at least 35 years if the state government does not show any leniency in exercising its powers to grant remission.

Another very important part of the judgement is the fine of Rs 80.30 lakh out of which Rs 50 lakh is to be paid to the deceased's widow.

If one were to presume that the deceased security guard had died in a road accident, the compensation that would have been awarded by a Motor Accident's Claims Tribunal would have been less than the Rs 50 lakhs that has been directed towards his family. The learned judge could have used this as a yardstick for deciding the quantum of compensation. Of course, if the accused is acquitted in appeal this amount will not be paid to the widow of the victim. It is also reported that the Kerala government has offered employment on compassionate grounds to Chandrabose's wife.

The nature of sentencing and the quantum of fine in this case reminds one of the infamous Premananda case in Tamil Nadu where the dubious god man was sentenced to undergo life sentence and pay a fine of about Rs 67 lakh. He did not get much relief in the appeals filed by him before the Madras High Court and thereafter the Supreme Court of India as the trial court's order was confirmed. He died in 2011 while serving his sentence.

There has been a rise in the mighty rich committing crimes in fits of rage and such sentencing should act as a deterrent.

Considering the severity of the crime for which Nisham has been sentenced and the brutal manner in which the murder was committed, the Kerala High Court will probably be very reluctant to grant bail. In fact, it is in the interest of society at large that such convicts are kept incarcerated till the entire judicial process is completed before the Supreme Court. They should be permitted to leave prison only upon being acquitted and not on bail. Having said this, the appeals also should be disposed off quickly, preferably within two years. The state government also seems to be inclined to file an appeal against this judgement to push for capital punishment before the appellate court.

There has been a rise in the mighty rich committing crimes in fits of rage and such sentencing should act as a deterrent. Let us hope more lives are not lost as a result of someone intoxicated by the drug of money.

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