Dean Hofstee’s family must be furious and feeling hurt by the Indian judicial system. Puneet Puneet their son’s killer jumped bail and ran away to India on his friends passport. He was on bail in Victoria in a drink driving accident where he killed 19-year-old pedestrian Dean Hofstee and seriously injured his friend Clancy Coker. That was in 2008. Since then Puneet Puneet extradition is being tried without success.
After years of hard work and an award offer of A$100,000 for his whereabouts, Puneet was arrested in 2013 on his wedding day. That was when the proceedings for his extradition began.
In the last eight years, Punnet Puneet has not only tried every trick in the trade to avoid extradition, he has invented some as well. If that was not enough to hurt the family who lost their young son, transfer of many judges hearing the matter has added to their agony.
Totally trivialising the principles of justice, the case has reached “final arguments” stages multiple times. Then the judge gets transferred and the new judge begins hearing the matter practically ab initio.
When judge Gurmohina Kaur was hearing the matter in 2018-19, Her Honour really signalled her intentions to bring closure to the case for the Hofstee family. Judge Kaur showed real intent to finalize the issues in the case and ordered medical assessment of Puneet’s mental health when all other issues he and his team had come up with incluiding Puneet’s medical condition, were taken care of.
Hearing the matter on September 9, 2019, Judge Kaur had noted, in response to another request for adjournment, this is the “last and final opportunity given to both the parties to conclude the arguments”.
Puneet Puneet coming to Australia looked a real prospect around that time and perhaps realizing that, he (Puneet) even nominated his own punishment for two years ‘imprisonment.
Judge Kaur got transferred and the matter went to a new judge, Judge Navjeet Budhiraja.
And things slowed down. Then came the COVID pandemic. Around mid 2020, in the middle of pandemic, Puneet Puneet “went missing” and did not show up.
In late 2020, the case came up for hearing a couple of times but now is allocated to another Judge who is hearing the “final arguments” afresh.
The hearing of the final arguments – unlike Australia – is being given only a few hours on the day and completion is being stymied and slowed down.
When the matter came up for hearing on February 18, only the court could hear only prosecution’s final arguments. The case was adjourned to March 6.
On that day, the defence, who now are playing the racist card again (played earlier for more than a couple of years) with new vigour in light of the racist attack incident during the Sydney Test, will be presenting their final argument.
The hearing begins in the afternoon, which perhaps means – the defence team will extend to another date, not finishing their arguments in defence of Puneet Puneet.
There is a real apprehension that the matter will see another adjournment on March 6 unless the new judges shows the urgency Judge Kaur showed when Judge Kaur was hearing the matter.
In the meantime, one cannot but feel extremely sorry for the Hofstee family who have been waiting to see a closure to the death of their young son.