'He's in bad shape': Wheelchair-bound Puneet Puneet appears for extradition hearing
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'He's in bad shape': Wheelchair-bound Puneet Puneet appears for extradition hearing

Delhi: Waiting in the corridor for the hearing of his extradition case, runaway Indian driver Puneet Puneet sat in a wheelchair with his face covered by a surgical mask, his uncle claiming he is suffering from schizophrenia.

"He is in bad shape," his uncle, Happy Malhotra, said of Puneet.

"Not only does he have liver problems, but the doctor has diagnosed his mental illness as schizophrenia."

Puneet refused to speak. Slumped in his wheelchair, coughing occasionally, his eyes looked glazed and he rolled his head slightly.

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Puneet Puneet and his uncle Happy Malhotra.

Puneet Puneet and his uncle Happy Malhotra.Credit:Amrit Dhillon

Puneet was charged with drink driving and killing 19-year-old Queensland student Dean Hofstee and seriously injuring 20-year-old Clancy Coker in Melbourne's Southbank on October 1, 2008.

He pleaded guilty to culpable driving charges at his 2009 trial at the Melbourne County Court, but he used a friend's passport to flee to India before a verdict was delivered.

Some years later, he was re-arrested in India. He spent two years in jail before being granted bail.

Last month, his lawyer, Kanhaiya Kumar Singhal, argued in court that Puneet should not be extradited to Australia because of "racism" in Australia.

Indian national Puneet Puneet is escorted by police at a district court in India's northern Punjab state in 2013.

Indian national Puneet Puneet is escorted by police at a district court in India's northern Punjab state in 2013.

At Tuesday's hearing, Puneet kept his head sunk on his chest. Apart from coughing occasionally, he made no sound. The hearing lasted only a few minutes.

Singhal's junior assistant began recording the testimony of two witnesses to the effect that racial attacks against Indians in Australia were common but the judge, Pooja Talwar, looked bewildered.

Puneet Puneet bailed from Melbourne Magistrates Court in 2008.

Puneet Puneet bailed from Melbourne Magistrates Court in 2008.Credit:Angela Wylie

"What does that kind of testimony have to do with the extradition case?," she asked sharply.

Unconvinced by Puneet's counsel's explanation, she told the court registrar to note that the testimony was being struck down.

"The evidence is being discarded as irrelevant," she said.

Mr Malhotra told Fairfax Media that a doctor in New Delhi had diagnosed schizophrenia.

"He is totally withdrawn and hardly speaks," he said.

"He sometimes says he hears voices and feels uneasy. He is under treatment. He is not the same person he was."

Puneet's parents and wife were deeply distressed by the extradition case, Mr Malhotra said.

"His wife is depressed because of it and his parents' health is ailing too from the stress. His father has high blood pressure."

Another uncle, who identified himself only as Satish, echoed this view: "We want it all to be over so that he can spend some normal time with his wife without these endless hearings and this fear hanging over his head".

The case continues.

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