Pune car accident: Police arrest five including realtor as case snowballs into political slugfest 

The Porsche car, allegedly driven by a juvenile, killed two motorbike riders in Pune

Updated - May 22, 2024 09:07 am IST

Published - May 21, 2024 05:01 pm IST - Pune

The Porsche car that was found without a number plate in Pune.  

The Porsche car that was found without a number plate in Pune.   | Photo Credit: PTI

The Pune police on Tuesday arrested a real estate developer who is the father of a 17-year-old boy whose speeding luxury car had recently knocked down and killed two persons in the city’s upmarket Kalyani Nagar area even as the case snowballed into a political slugfest, with the Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) accusing police authorities and an MLA of the ruling Ajit Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) faction of allegedly shielding the accused minor.

The builder, who had been absconding, was arrested by a team of the Pune police’s crime branch from Maharashtra’s Sambhajinagar (formerly Aurangabad) early today after a case was registered against him on Monday (May 20).

“He was taken in custody from a hotel in Sambhajinagar early today morning and is being brought to Pune. He will be produced in court on Wednesday,” Pune Police Commissioner Amitesh Kumar said.

The police also arrested four other persons including proprietors and executives of two pubs – BLAK (in Marriott Suites) and Cosie - for serving liquor to the minor.

All five persons, including the builder, face charges under sections 3, 5, and 199A of the Motor Vehicles Act as well as sections 75 and 77 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015.

According to the authorities, the arrests were made after CCTV footage from one of the bars surfaced, which shows the minor and his friends consuming alcohol. The accident had occurred some hours later.

The builder’s minor son, under the influence of alcohol, had caused a tragic accident in the wee hours of Sunday when he rammed his grey-coloured Porsche car into a motorbike from behind, killing both riders — Anis Awadhiya and Ashwini Costa — both in their mid-20s.

A case had been registered against the accused under section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the Indian Penal Code and sections of the Motor Vehicles Act on the same day of the accident.

Even as Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis ordered a stern probe into the incident, Congressman and Leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra State Assembly Vijay Wadettiwar demanded a judicial inquiry while Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut cast aspersions on the working of the police machinery, calling for Police Commissioner to be sacked.

Mr. Wadettiwar said the investigation had revealed that the luxury car had no registration number, and the minor driver was seen consuming alcohol at a pub before the accident.

He questioned how an unregistered car was allowed on Pune roads and how the pub served alcohol to the minor.

“The alcohol test of the minor came back negative, but CCTV footage shows him consuming alcohol. This raises many questions about the investigation. How do pubs and bars serve alcohol to minors? Why do the police allow these pubs and hotels to ignore the rules?” Mr. Wadettiwar said, in a post on micro-blogging site X (formerly Twitter).

While the nature of the accident was enough to provoke outrage, the decision of the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB), which granted the youngster bail barely 15 hours after the incident, had sparked a storm of criticism on social media and elsewhere.

The JJB, while asking the accused to write a 300-word essay on road accidents, had directed him to visit the Regional Transport Office to study rules and regulations.

While both Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Maharashtra Home Minister Devendra Fadnavis ordered a stern probe into the incident, Congressman and Leader of the Opposition Vijay Wadettiwar and Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut cast aspersions on the working of the Pune police machinery, calling for the Police Commissioner to be sacked. They also demanded a judicial probe into the matter.

However, Mr. Fadnavis, who came down to Pune to review the case with top police authorities, defended the police by saying they had taken the matter seriously right from the beginning while criticizing the JJB’s lenient decision to grant the accused bail as “astonishing.”

“This is a very painful incident. There was great public outrage among citizens after the JJB took a shockingly lenient view of the matter. I took a review meeting with the police today to decide on the future course of action and preventive measures to be taken henceforth. In order to make the action against drunken driving cases more effective, pub licences would be stringently scrutinized from now on. I have directed not only the police but civic bodies and excise department as well to act on this. Any violations on part of such joints will invite immediate closure orders,” Mr. Fadnavis said.

Stating that the police had acted sternly in the matter right form the beginning, Mr. Fadnavis said the remand application submitted to the JJB specifically had specifically applied section 304, and not 304 A (death by negligence not amounting to culpable homicide) of the IPC in the case.

“The police, in their remand application to the JJB, had clearly mentioned that as the accused was 17 years and 8 months old and had committed a heinous crime, he can and should be treated as an adult under the amendments in the aftermath of the Nirbhaya case. Unfortunately, the JJB took an extremely lenient view of the matter directing the accused to social service and de-addiction programme. The JJB’s decision shocked and astonished all of us,” Mr. Fadnavis said.

He informed that the police had appealed to the Sessions Court which directed them to file a revision application before the JJB.

“If the police still do not get justice in the JJB, they will keep knocking all legal doors and move upper courts. No one has the right to drink and drive and kill someone,” the Home Minister said.

More opprobrium followed against the accused and the police authorities following allegations that the minor, who was in the Yerwada police station soon after causing the accident, was reportedly served pizzas and burgers while an MLA from the Ajit Pawar-led NCP was trying to pressurise the police to mitigate charges against him.

Responding to these accusations, Commissioner Amitesh Kumar said today, “If any police official has been found to have indulged in something like this or has been attempting to shield the accused, then he will be severely dealt with.”

Refuting suggestions of laxity on part of the police, Mr. Kumar said: “While people are outraged that the JJB granted bail to the accused in barely 15 hours, let me say that even the police are equally upset and had objected to the JJB’s decision right from the start. However, it is not proper to suggest that the police have been lax in any way at any point of time in this case. We have taken the most stringent legal approach right form the start and have handled it professionally.”

He refuted suggestions that the minor’s alcohol reports had turned up as ‘negative’ in a bid to let him off the hook.

“The CCTV footage clearly shows he was drinking. Be it CCTV footage or online bill payments, we have a record of his activities before the accident. He made online payments totalling to ₹48,000 to a hotel. So, no one should be any doubt that the accused will escape justice,” Mr. Kumar said.

He further said that in order to make it a watertight case, the probe was being led by an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP)-level officer as well as by Crime Branch officials while a special counsel would be appointed as well.

Meanwhile, Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut, claiming the accused teenager was served pizzas and burgers by the Pune police, demanded that Commissioner Amitesh Kumar.

“Whom are the Pune police shielding? Two innocent lives, both in their 20s, have been lost because of the recklessness and arrogance of a drunken son of a wealthy builder. This is the result of a corrupt police machinery and a corrupt MLA of the Ajit Pawar faction. The citizens of Pune must protest before the Commissioner’s office and demand his ouster,” Mr. Raut said.

The Congress, led by its Pune unit leaders, Kasba Peth MLA Ravindra Dhangekar and Mohan Joshi, staged a protest before the Yerwada police station.

“Citizens in this area have long been troubled by the rampant pub culture. And now, after this accident, the police instead of stringently investigating this case, did not apply the correct clauses soon after the accused was taken into custody. As a result, the JJB let the accused off. It appears that the police have been bribed in this case,” Mr. Dhangekar said.   

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