NEW DELHI // The Supreme Court yesterday upheld a three-year prison sentence for a Mumbai businessman who ran over and killed seven sleeping construction workers while drink driving.
Alistair Pereira, 25, lost control of his Toyota Corrola on the night of November 12, 2006 and ran over a group of 15 labourers sleeping on the pavement in the heart of the business capital.
Seven were killed and the rest were severely injured, but Pereira was sentenced to only six months in prison during his first trial the following year.
The first judge to hear the case rejected medical evidence that showed Pereira was more than twice over the legal alcohol limit because the hospital record had not been signed by the doctor who carried out the test.
There was a public outcry against the lenient sentence - considered yet another example of different standards for India's wealthier classes. Protests by lawyers and civil rights groups forced the state government to re-open the case, and the Bombay High Court eventually sentenced Pereira to three years' imprisonment and a fine of 450,000 rupees (Dh32,000) to be paid to the victims' families.
His appeal to the Supreme Court has taken more than four years, during which Pereira has been free on bail. He has insisted the accident had been caused by a broken axle on his car.
Drink driving is common in Indian cities, where the wealthy know that police can easily be paid off with a bribe, often as low as 500 rupees, if they are caught.
India has the highest number of traffic-related accidents in the world, with 410,000 crashes and 133,000 deaths in 2010, although its per capita death tally is marginally lower than the average for developing countries.
Poor quality of roads, lack of driver training and the disinterest of the police in road safety have led to chaos on the streets of urban India. Aware of the growing problem, police forces in the major cities have recently launched a series of initiatives aimed at targeting drink drivers.