In New Delhi
ON FRIDAY, sometime around noon, a Delhi court will pronounce sentence on Sanjeev Nanda, a member of a high-profile New Delhi business family convicted for manslaughter in a hit and run case dating back to January 1999.
Nanda, the court has ruled, ran over six people, causing their death. Three of them were policemen manning a checkpoint near an upmarket residential area. The others were bystanders.
Nanda, now 30 years old, could draw as much as ten years in prison although the judge will probably not be so harsh. Even so, it looks like he may not escape a jail term. According to lawyers I know, his worst mistake probably was to flee the accident scene, then try to cover it up.
Eyewitnesses on that early January morning have reported that the car crashed into the barrier at very high speed. Then, two men got out, surveyed the wreckage and the mangled bodies. One was apparently heard saying: "Let's go, Sanj."
Six people died. Who knows, maybe two of the lives may have been saved if the people in the car had immediately taken the injured to hospital.
Having fled to the house of a friend nearby, they next attempted to cover up the accident. Servants were told to wash down the car and to remove bone and blood sticking to it.
Police investigators who arrived on the scene however followed an oil leak to the house. When they knocked at the gates, they were refused entry. They called back to the station for reinforcements and forced themselves in.
What awaited them shocked their eyes: When they pulled off a plastic sheet, they saw the mangled Beemer, standing in the water that has been used for the attempted cleaning. Forensic experts established that spots of blood on the steering wheel matched that of Sanjeev Nanda's.
The Nanda family is an influential one.
Grandfather SN Nanda is a war hero, and the navy admiral when India and Pakistan went to war over Bangladesh in 1971. Sanjeev's father was a naval officer who quit the navy upon the admiral's retirement. Since then he has been representing arms companies. Throughout the case Sanjeev was assisted by some of the best-known lawyers in New Delhi.
It turns out that some of them were willing to go to any extent to protect their client, including trying to buy witnesses. According to the Delhi High Court, even the special prosecutor in the case had been subverted.
The negative publicity surrounding the Nandas isn't restricted to the BMW case alone.
Five months ago, the Central Bureau of Investigation raided a Mumbai hotel where Sanjeev and his father, Suresh Nanda, were allegedly meeting with their chartered accountant and a senior income tax official.
This official was investigating the Nandas in an arms trade involving the import of Barak missiles from Israel.
The CBI says the senior tax official deliberately withheld incriminating material against the Nandas in his investigation report. The Nandas are based in New Delhi. The CBI says the meeting in Mumbai was to pass on bribes to the tax official.
So it seems the Nandas are going to be in the spotlight for many months to come.