Killer Indian driver gets Australia extradition case date

Killer Indian driver gets Australia extradition case date
Indian national Puneet Puneet is brought to the district court in Rajpura, India's Punjab state, on December 12, 2013.

NEW DELHI - An Indian man who fled Australia after killing a teenager while drink driving and speeding in Melbourne was Friday sent to prison as a court set his extradition hearing for next week.

Puneet Puneet, 24, was handcuffed and led away to New Delhi's Tihar jail amid emotional scenes at the Patiala House court complex where his family members pleaded for sympathy for their only son.

Puneet, sporting a black winter cap and a black jacket, said he could not understand why he was being handcuffed. "I am not a terrorist. I am ready to abide by the law."

Puneet, who only had a provisional driver's licence at the time of the crash, hit two students, aged 19 and 20, as they walked across a road in Melbourne in 2008. One of the students died at the scene.

Australian police estimated Puneet was driving at 148 kilometres (92 miles) an hour - more than double the legal limit in the area. He also tested positive for alcohol.

Puneet had been charged with culpable driving and negligently causing serious injury, then bailed on strict conditions including the surrender of his passport. But he later fled using a fellow Indian's passport.

Australian police offered a reward in 2012 for information leading to his arrest. After four years on the run from police in India, he was nabbed in late November in Noida, a satellite city of Delhi.

While Australian authorities are now seeking extradition, Puneet's lawyer Meena Sharma said she had moved an application for his trial be held in India.

"We are saying that since Puneet is an Indian citizen, he should be tried in India," she told reporters outside the court.

Earlier, judge Sheetal Chaudhary said she would hear arguments on Puneet's extradition next Wednesday.

"Fugitive Puneet be sent to judicial custody in Tihar jail till then," she said.

A member of the Australian Federal Police was present in the court as the judge read out her order.

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