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Officials change course amid outrage over bail terms for Indian teen accused in fatal drunk driving accident

5/22: CBS Morning News
5/22: CBS Morning News 20:14

New Delhi — Indian justice officials have changed course amid outrage over the bail terms set for a teenager accused of killing two people while driving a Porsche at high speed while drunk and without a license. The 17-year-old son of a wealthy businessman had been ordered to write a 300-word essay and work with the local traffic police for 15 days to be granted bail — a decision that was made within 15 hours of his arrest.

He is accused of killing two young people while speeding in his luxury car on Sunday in the western Indian city of Pune.

The lenient bail conditions initially imposed by the local Juvenile Justice Board shocked many people, including officials, across India. The local police approached the board with an appeal to cancel his bail and seeking permission to treat the boy, who is just four months shy of his 18th birthday, as an adult, arguing that his alleged crime was heinous in nature.

In 2015, India changed its laws to allow minors between 16 and 18 years of age to be tried as adults if they're accused of crimes deemed heinous. The change was prompted by the notorious 2012 Delhi rape case, in which one of the convicts was a minor. Many activists argued that if he was old enough to commit a brutal rape, he should not be treated as a minor.

On Wednesday night, after three days of outrage over the initial decision, the Juvenile Justice Board canceled the teen's bail and sent him to a juvenile detention center until June 5. It said a decision on whether he could be tried as an adult, which would see him face a more serious potential sentence, would be taken after further investigation.

Late Sunday night, police say the teen, after drinking with friends at two local bars in Pune, left in his Porsche Taycan, speeding through narrow roads and allegedly hitting a motorcycle, sending the two victims — a male and female, both 24-year-old software engineers — flying into the air and killing them.

The parents of both victims have urged authorities to ensure a strict punishment for the teen.

The suspect was first charged with causing death by negligence, but that was changed to a more serious charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. On Wednesday he was also charged with drunk driving offenses.

Police have arrested the suspect's father and accused him of allowing his son to drive despite being underage, according to Pune Police Commissioner Amitesh Kumar. The legal age for driving in India is 18. Owners of the two bars where the minor was served alcohol have also been arrested and their premises seized.

"We have adopted the most stringent possible approach, and we shall do whatever is at our command to ensure that the two young lives that were lost get justice, and the accused gets duly punished," Kumar said.

Maharashtra state's Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had described the original decision of the Juvenile Justice Board as "lenient" and "shocking," and called the public outrage a reasonable reaction.

Holi Festival Celebration In India
Indian traffic police conduct drinking and driving checks during the Holi holiday, March 25, 2024, in Noida, India. Sunil Ghosh/Hindustan Times/Getty

Road accidents claimed more than 168,000 lives in India in 2022. More than 1,500 of those people died in accidents caused by drunk driving, according to Indian government data.

Under Indian law, a person convicted of drunk driving can face a maximum punishment of six months in prison and a fine of about $120 for a first offense. If, however, the drunk driving leads to the death of another person, the offender can face two to seven years in prison.

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