Puneet Puneet broke down in his extradition hearing. Picture: News Corp Australia
Puneet Puneet broke down in his extradition hearing. Picture: News Corp Australia

Drink-driving killer breaks down in court

INDIAN hit-and-run driver Puneet Puneet has cried out and sobbed at an extradition hearing in New Delhi as his lawyers said he smashed his head against a wall because he's mentally unbalanced.

Judge Gurmohina Kaur is deciding whether Puneet should be sent back to Melbourne for sentencing on his conviction for running into and killing Queensland student Dean Hofstee, 19, on October 1, 2008.

Puneet, who was a 19-year-old learner driver at the time, also seriously injured 20-year-old Clancy Coker.

Puneet was on bail and awaiting sentence after pleading guilty to culpable driving when he used a friend's passport to flee Australia in 2009. Police arrested him four years later in India, on his wedding day.

Puneet Puneet is facing extradition to Melbourne. Picture: News Corp Australia
Puneet Puneet is facing extradition to Melbourne. Picture: News Corp Australia

In court on Friday his lawyers were arguing Puneet was not mentally competent to be the subject of an extradition decision when the defendant began making high-pitched noises and calling for his uncle.

Judge Kaur stopped proceedings and said "What happened? Stand up Puneet! Stand up! What happened?" Puneet, with a bandaged head, fell into his uncle's arms and began crying hysterically, before he was removed from the courtroom.

Judge Kaur then asked "Who was making those sounds? Was that him?" Bhaskar Valli, the advocate for the Union of India, which handles extradition cases for the Indian government, said the defence argument about Puneet's mental health was "yet another malicious application".

The defence has previously argued Puneet would face racism in Australia if extradited, was gravely ill, was mentally unfit to face trial, and that the case was of a "political character." The defence has also said Puneet suffered from kidney problems, schizophrenia, weight loss and at one point drank poison, due to his fragile state of mind.

Dean Hofstee was 19 when he was killed. Picture: Supplied
Dean Hofstee was 19 when he was killed. Picture: Supplied

"If he or his lawyers feel his mental state will not lead him into a safe environment, let him come forward so that we can verify this," said Valli. "This is not a man of good intent or bona fide character", he added, referring to Puneet's actions in fleeing from Australia nine years ago. As arguments continued over when the case could proceed, Valli said "Your ladyship has been extremely indulgent" over the various delays and postponements in the hearings.

Judge Kaur retorted by calling for a special hearing on Saturday to hear the full detail of the defence's claims over Puneet's mental health, and potentially offer a decision in the case.

The next hearing will be a the Patiala District Court in Delhi on June 2.

Clancy Coker was seriously injured in the crash. Picture: Supplied
Clancy Coker was seriously injured in the crash. Picture: Supplied

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