Hit and run driver’s wild demand

LAWYERS for hit-run driver Puneet Puneet say their client is concerned he would not be given due justice if he returned from India to face punishment in Australia.

Puneet was a 19-year-old learner driver when he killed student Dean Hofstee in Melbourne in 2008.

He was driving 150km/h while under the influence of alcohol when he hit and killed the teenager.

Puneet fled to India while out on bail but was arrested five years ago on his wedding day and has been facing drawn-out extradition hearings to determine whether he should be sent back to Melbourne.

Kanhaiya Kumar Singhal, acting on behalf of Puneet, said his client had been told in 2008 he could be given a sentence of 20 to 30 years.

Puneet's lawyers have now made an offer to Victoria's Attorney General that he will return to Australia from India if prosecutors guarantee a maximum two-year sentence.

While they have not yet received an official response from Victoria's Acting Attorney-General Gavin Jennings or the federal government to the proposal, Mr Singhal said they knew the offer was being "discussed".

"It will take a matter of time, but we know there are discussions in Australia," Mr Singhal told reporters outside a Delhi court on Monday.

 

Puneet Puneet is facing extradition in India’s courts.
Puneet Puneet is facing extradition in India’s courts.

 

Asked whether that could mean the extradition request might be dropped, Mr Singhal said: "Not dropped as that would technically be grounds for surrender. But opposing parties could well sit down and negotiate."

Last week, in response to Mr Singhal's request, Mr Jennings said Victoria's courts would decide on the appropriate punishment.

"Puneet Puneet needs to return to Victoria to face the consequences of his actions, and we won't rest until justice is served," he said.

 

Puneet Puneet (right) is seen outside a court in Delhi, India yesterday. Picture: Saptarshi Ray/AAP
Puneet Puneet (right) is seen outside a court in Delhi, India yesterday. Picture: Saptarshi Ray/AAP

 

In court, Mr Singhal reprised legal arguments according to extradition laws, including the absence of a motive in which he claimed his client was effectively being tried for murder, rather than a drink-driving accident.

"Even a terrorist has a motive when he blows something up," said Mr Singhal.

Puneet Puneet's father Naresh Kumar Rawal has been supporting his son.
Puneet Puneet's father Naresh Kumar Rawal has been supporting his son.

"Though maybe I should not be quoted as saying that as the media is here.

"But the point is my client did not have any motive or forethought to make this a culpable homicide as opposed to a tragic accident."

Puneet's defence has delayed proceedings multiple times in the case, which has dragged on for nearly four years through the Indian courts.

Puneet is due to face court again in Delhi on August 13.


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