Two college students from Ghaziabad and the taxi driver died on the spot when their Chevrolet Tavera was hit by a luxury SUV Audi Q7 that crossed over the divider and rammed into the taxi in a freak mishap around 1am on Monday night on the Sector 17-18 road.
After initial dithering, the police registered a case of death caused due to negligence against the Audi's driver. But no arrests were made as cops weren't sure who was driving. The Audi's owner, Rajat, 30, came to the police station and claimed that he was sitting next to his driver Sukhpal Singh at the time of the accident, said DSP (central) Ashish Kapoor. "Rajat told us that Sukhpal lost control after the rear left tire bust. Though both of them came to us, we will make a formal arrest only after scanning the CCTV camera footage of the road to ascertain who was driving," the DSP added.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Sahil Juneja, 21, and Kuldeep Singh, 22 - both of whom died - and their friends Shekhar Rastogi, 21, and Raunak Singh, 21 - who suffered minor injuries - were on vacation in Shimla and surrounding areas since July 20. It was on the way back that they hired the taxi of Hast Bahadur from Dharampur for the 50km drive to Chandigarh. The plan was to take a bus home from here.
But barely a kilometre from the Sector-17 bus terminus, the Audi coming from the opposite side suddenly lost direction, first rammed into an electricity pole on the divider and then crossed over to hit the Tavera. The impact was such that the Tavera's driver, Kuldeep on the front seat and Sahil on the backseat died on the spot. Shekhar, who was also in the front, and Raunak had a narrow escape.
The police were informed and reached the spot along with a fire brigade team that had to toil hard to extricate the bodies. The victims were rushed to the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) where Sahil, Kuldeep and Bahadur were declared dead on arrival.
While Sahil and Kuldeep were pursuing BBA and BTech, respectively, Shekhar is studying law and Raunak Singh is in BBA. All four are from Vaishali in UP's Ghaziabad, neighbouring Delhi.
Clueless cops, or bid to shield killer
Before Rajat, a realtor from Panchkula, made the claim that his driver was behind the wheel when the accidents occurred on their way back from Hotel Aroma after dinner, the police remained curiously clueless. Cops only knew from some bills in the car that the Audi's two occupants were heading home after shopping and dinner.
Sector-17 SHO inspector Ram Gopal said the Audi was registered in the name of Hyte Realtors, plot 24/4, Industrial Area-2, belonging to a man called Rajat. Cops raided his house in Sector 4 of Panchkula but he wasn't there. "We were told by his servant that he was out of town from the past two days. We are not sure who was driving the car," admitted the SHO, hours before Rajat appeared before the cops and debunked the theory that he was out of town.
Such was the police's attitude that they initially registered a case against the driver of the Chevrolet Tavera on the statement of a Home Guards volunteer. It was only after the families of the victims protested that a case of rash driving, causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others, and causing death by negligence under sections 279, 337 and 304A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was registered against the driver of the Audi.
'I lost my only child, and police played dirty games'
High drama was witnessed at the Sector-16 Government Multi-Specialty Hospital (GMSH) after the family of one of the deceased - Sahil Juneja -- protested against the alleged inaction by the police.
The family had gathered at the mortuary for Sahil's post-mortem examination where his father Yashpal Juneja said, "I've lost my only child and the police are playing dirty games with us. They are least bothered. The police initially booked our side, and later, only when we raised hue and cry, they registered a case against the driver of the Audi."
Shibu Bahadur, brother of deceased Tavera driver Hast Bahadur, also said the police were trying to twist facts to help the Audi driver.
After Audi owner Rajat showed up and presented his 'I-wasn't-driving' theory, the victims' relatives were not available for immediate comment.
Earlier, Yashpal Juneja also accused the police of deliberately using Punjabi to record their statements. "We can't read and write Punjabi and they recorded all the statements in Punjabi despite repeated requests from us," he said. "The turn of events shows the police are trying to shield the accused person, who seems to be very rich since he was in such an expensive car."