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Five including the Father of Juvenile Son Arrested in Pune Luxury Car Accident Case

Five including the Father of Juvenile Son Arrested in Pune Luxury Car Accident Case

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NEW DELHI, May 21: The Pune police on Tuesday arrested a real estate developer and father of 17-year old drunken boy whose speeding luxury car had knocked down and killed two software engineers in Pune’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.

Builder Vishal Agarwal, who had been absconding, was arrested by a team of the Pune police’s crime branch from Maharashtra’s Sambhajinagar (formerly Aurangabad) early on Tuesday 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 Vishal Agarwal, 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. Vishal Agarwal’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.

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.

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 pressurize the police to mitigate charges against him.

Responding to these accusations, Commissioner Amitesh Kumar said on Tuesday, “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 from 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 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 asked, “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.

Mr Fadnavis while promising strong action against the guilty teen condemned the “lenient” punishment given to the boy by the Juvenile Justice Board – a 300-word essay on accidents, working with the traffic police for 15 days and undergoing counselling for his drinking – in contrast with the heinous crime. “How can the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Board give such an order,” he asked. “We have appealed to the district court against the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Board order. There is a huge public outrage. I have taken stock of the investigation updates till now,” Mr Fadnavis said.

“The minor is 17 years and 8 months old and as per the Nirbhaya case, anyone above 16 years should be considered an adult in cases of heinous crimes,” stressed the Deputy Chief Minister. Mr Fadnavis also detailed the government’s steps to avoid similar incidents in future: “Administration has been alerted to take closure action against those pubs where violations are found and drink driving checks by police on important places.”

The Pune police commissioner has claimed that he had sought permission from the board to try the minor as an adult and send him to an observation home as the crime was heinous, but the plea was rejected. The police have now approached the District Court.

(Manas Dasgupta)



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