The Bombay High Court on Tuesday sought to know a man’s locus standi, his right to approach the court, over his PIL seeking the inclusion of culpable homicide charge against Dr Anahita Pandole, who was driving the car that crashed and killed former Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry.
Petitioner Sandesh Jedhe, who claims to be a self-spirited citizen concerned about road safety, in his PIL sought a direction to Kasa police station in Palghar district to invoke section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the Indian Penal Code, against the accused in the accident case.
Mistry (54) and Jehangir Pandole were killed on September 4 when their luxury car hit a divider on a bridge on Surya river on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway. Dr Anahita Pandole (55), who was at the wheel, and her husband Darius Pandole were seriously injured. The police later registered a case against Anahita Pandole for rash and negligent driving.
While hearing the PIL on Tuesday, a division bench of acting Chief Justice S V Gangapurwala and Justice Sandeep Marne sought to know Jedhe’s locus standi in the case and how the high court can do the job of a magistrate.
“This is a job of a magistrate. It is the magistrate who can decide what charges to put. You (petitioner) want the high court to do the functions of the magistrate? What is your locus standi? How are you concerned in this case?” the court asked.
The bench added that the concerned police can add any charge and it is for the magistrate to consider the same and see if any more charge needs to be included.
Jedhe’s advocate Sadiq Ali claimed that the petitioner has evidence that Anahita Pandole was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident.
In his petition, the petitioner refers to a CCTV footage allegedly indicating that Anahita Pandole had been consuming liquor at a café on the previous night (September 3, 2022) before she drove the vehicle carrying Mistry, among others. Senior counsel Rafique Dada, appearing for Darius Pandole, sought for the PIL to be dismissed.
Appearing for Anahita Pandole, senior counsel Abad Ponda said, ”It is premised on the imagination that she was under alcohol. There were tests conducted by the police.” Public prosecutor Aruna Kamat Pai, appearing for the police, clarified that “The tests were negative.” Ali then claimed that he has more material to prove his case and sought a last chance. The court then posted the matter for further hearing on January 17.
The petition further states that Darius Pandole should also be charged with the offence under section 304 IPC along with Anahita Pandole, as he was the owner of the vehicle, and he had not prevented his wife from driving the vehicle despite allegedly being aware of ”her drinking habits”. The petitioner further claimed that Darius Pandole had prior knowledge about Anahita’s alleged aggressive driving because of which the vehicle is stated to have been slapped with seven traffic challans for over speeding and jumping signals.