Puneet Puneet, a now infamous fugitive drunk driver who killed Dean Hofstee and critically injured Clancy Coker in 2008 and ran away to India on a friend’s passport while on bail, has been at it again.
After the crash in 2008, he pleaded guilty to culpable driving and was released on bail. But he had no plans to cooperate and offer closure to the families affected by his wrongdoing. in June 2009, he absconded to India. Knowing pretty well Australia would be coming after him, after landing in India, he went into hiding. After the Victorian government offered $100,000 reward on his whereabouts, he was finally tracked down by Indian police in 2013 reportedly on the day of his wedding.
And ever since Australian authorities have been endeavouring to have him extradited back to Melbourne to face the law.
There have been more than 70 hearings and adjournments and excuses or other reasons, but the extradition request is still pending.
Puneet Puneet has played all sorts of cards, race, discrimination, health, mental state, fear – even blamed Australia to be a racist country – where he would have settled had he not involved himself in that drink driving crash – and used various other legal bottlenecks to thwart Australia’s efforts to bring him here.
Then, in September this year, a progressive judge refused to entertain any further excuses and cleared him for extradition by the government of India.
His (perhaps his wife’s) last excuse – which was sidelined was that he has legal matters pending against him (by his wife (wedding 2013)) and he could not be cleared to go.
Being an issue (and only a side issue) introduced very late in the piece once he was running out of options to delay, the judge took the view to only deal with matters relevant to his extradition application and found him fit to face the law in Australia.
‘The application before the court – which took some 8 years was only to determine:
(a) Whether the offence for which extradition of Puneet Puneet is sought is an extraditable offence;
(b) Whether a prima-facie case exists against Puneet Puneet in support of the requisition request of Australia;
(c) Whether the extradition request and documents received are duly authenticated;
(d) Whether the offence for which extradition of Puneet Puneet is sought is a political offence.
Adding to that list was one of the arguments of Puneet’s lawyers that the extradition treaty between Australia and India came into force on 20 January 2011 while the time of crash (commission of offence) is 2008, Puneet Puneet absconding is 2009 and Australia’s request for his extradition is 2010.
12 August 2020 – Cleared to be extradited
It may give some solace to the Hofstee and Coker families that these arguments were dealt with and the judge, clinically dealt with the scope of enquiry and found that Puneet Puneet had to offences to face in Australia which were extraditable and thus recommended his extradition.
That offered a glimmer of hope that finally the Hofstee and Coker family would be able to see the culprit facing the law.
Bharat Times, given his history of excuses, understood the absconder was not simply going to board the plane any time soon.
On 17 August 2020, Puneet Puneet immediately filed an appeal in the Delhi High Court against the order.
He also added more lawyers to his team and I believe will go all the way to the Supreme Court should he lose in the Delhi High Court which will take some time to run the course.
On his last date December 7, the matter was simply adjourned. It is like to come up in January 2022 which is a slack season and will perhaps be adjourned again.
Puneet Puneet had been in custody for more than 18 months before he surrendered on 2 September. It may very well be on advice of his lawyers.
They think his offences in Australia are punishable with an imprisonment of up to 2 years.
My guess is the surrender may be a way of doing more time in India.
They argued before the judges that of two years that he may be punished with, he has spent 18 months in custody while fighting the extradition battle.
Not unsurprisingly, the judge deemed that was arguable (albeit in front of the sentencing judge in the County Court of Victoria in Australia) in case he was extradited.
There could be more tricks up his sleeve. Stay tuned for more in 2022!
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