Christmas behind bars for Tongaat businessman following 2011 fatal road crash that claimed three lives
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Durban: Shalan Sewshanker, the Tongaat businessman who caused the deaths of three carpool companions, will serve 30 months in jail. The incident happened in 2011.
Magistrate Prithi Bhoda Khedun sentenced Sewshanker to 72 months – 30 in jail and the other 42 months wholly suspended for five years.
All three counts of culpable homicide were taken as one for the purposes of sentencing in the Durban Regional Court on Friday.
For the charge of reckless or negligent driving, Sewshanker was given a R10 000 fine or 12 months’ imprisonment. His driving licence was also cancelled and he is not permitted to obtain a new one for the next three years.
Eureka Govender, 30, Marlon Pillay, 32, and Duveshnee Naicker, 24, died on June 15, 2011, when Sewshanker drove his BMW 320i through a red traffic light on the R102 near Ottawa. His vehicle collided with their VW Polo.
Govender and Pillay died at the scene and Naicker a short while later in hospital.
Govender worked as an admin clerk for a chain store, Pillay was an accountant, and Naicker was serving her law articles.
Sewshanker, a third-year BCom student at the time, was subsequently charged with three counts of culpable homicide, one count of driving under the influence of alcohol, and a count of reckless or negligent driving.
At his trial, Sewshanker, now 33, denied being liable for the crash.
However, in October last year, he was found guilty on all counts except for driving under the influence of alcohol. The court found the State had failed to prove this charge beyond reasonable doubt.
In sentencing, Magistrate Khedun said the court had to consider the crime, the offender and the interest of society.
"The punishment to be imposed must fit the crime as well as the offender, be fair to society and also have a measure of mercy."
He said culpable homicide arising from reckless or negligent driving of a motor vehicle was the most serious of road traffic offences because it involved the loss of human life.
"The right to life is sacred and is safeguarded by the Constitution and the courts. The accused's gross negligent conduct has resulted in the loss of three young people, who were in the prime of their lives. Three families have had to suffer the pain and trauma, leaving them emotionally shattered. One child has been left behind without the love and support of his mother by his side."
Magistrate Khedun also said: "A totally suspended sentence is not a sentencing option, considering the seriousness of the crime."
After sentencing was handed down and the courtroom emptied, magistrate Khedun called the victims' families back into the court. He told them to try to move forward and find it in their hearts to forgive.
Magistrate Khedun spoke about the loss he suffered.
"While I was based in Verulam, busy with my day's job, I received a phone call that my brother was late and from court, I had to drive to his house where he was lying in a pool of blood. So, I know what it is to lose someone.
“Five years later, at Umhloti Beach, after writing the matric exams, that brother's eldest son passed on. Again, I was at home and I received a phone call. I had to drive to the beach to see his body.
"You will have to find it within your hearts in order to go ahead with life with strength, with love, and so that the departed souls can rest in peace. Whenever and if ever you find it in your heart to forgive, you will have to give the accused the opportunity to personally tell you how sorry he is and whatever he wants to express, so that he can also get on with his life."
However, the victims' families felt the sentence did not fit the crime.
Deven Pillay, Marlon Pillay's brother, said he was glad the accused was found guilty but the sentence was lenient.
"Our lives have been permanently changed and effectively his life is only going to be impacted for two years. I don't think the punishment is appropriate given the crime. It is something we are not completely happy with."
Siva Naicker, Duveshnee Naicker's father, said: "We are not happy with the sentencing. He got away with a light sentence. He deserved much more.
“But irrespective, we are grateful to community activist Alvin Brijlal, who assisted families in pursuing the matter and made sure it was brought to court. He went out of his way to assist in the matter without remuneration.
“A big thank you to regional court prosecutor Rakesh Singh for his dedication towards the matter and securing a conviction, as well as the investigating officers."
Eureka Govender's mother-in-law, Krishnavelli Govender, said it was unfair that she had to wait 10 years for the accused to be given what she considered a light sentence.
"We now leave him in the hands of God. Ultimately, he is in control. Let the accused live with his demons."
She said she knew she had to forgive Sewshanker.
"It does us no good to walk in anger and revenge. We have to let it go."
Alvin Brijlal, who supported the family, said the judgment was bittersweet.
"One part of closure or relief is that he was found guilty. Regarding the sentencing, everyone is not satisfied as 10 years has not taken away the pain. In fact, it has made it worse. Where is the justice?
The defence put forward an application for leave to appeal the accused's conviction and sentence but the application was denied.