Puneet mental health assessment delayed

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Drink-driver Puneet Puneet has still to be examined psychologically after his extradition hearing faced further delays over the defendant’s mental state.

He was on bail in 2009 and awaiting sentence after pleading guilty to culpable driving over the 2008 death of Queensland student Dean Hofstee, when he fled Australia using a friend’s passport. He was arrested four years later in India, on his wedding day.

The Patiala Court in Delhi heard on Tuesday that Puneet was initially examined but his family’s permission was withdrawn after they discovered he was being kept “in the jail area” of a psychiatric hospital.

“We agreed to his assessment but we never agreed to him being put into the jail section,” Puneet’s defence lawyer, Khaniya Kumar Singhal, said.

Judge Gurmohina Kaur said she would contact doctors at the Institute of Human, Behavioural and Applied Sciences (IHBAS) in Delhi, which is to undertake the exam, to understand what exactly had transpired.

She told the defence: “You should have brought any such matters to the attention of the court. If he was jailed, it would contravene the orders of the court.

“We need him to be assessed. It is necessary for this case to move towards a logical conclusion.”

Union of India advocates, who handle extradition matters for the Indian government, said this was a delaying tactic by the defence, and that the judge should ensure Puneet was assessed as soon as possible.

Puneet was in court – with two uncles – dressed in a green and grey sweatshirt, grey pyjamas and sandals.

Puneet, a learner driver at the time of the accident, was travelling at 150km/h with a blood alcohol reading of 0.165 when he lost control of his car and hit Mr Hofstee.

Previously, the defence had said Puneet suffered from kidney problems, schizophrenia, weight loss, at one point drank poison, and is possibly still suicidal due to his “fragile state of mind”.

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