A celebration goes wrong. Another turns tragic. Two people die in a late-night accident in Mumbai.
When Janhavi Gadkar, a high court advocate and vice-president of the legal team with Reliance Industries Limited, went to celebrate on Monday night with friends for a project the company had bagged, little did she know that she will be party to a tragedy.
Businessman Salim Sabuwala and his family were out on the fateful night to celebrate after his son scored a 90% in the SSC examination.
The lawyer, allegedly drunk and driving on the wrong side of the Eastern Freeway, rammed into the taxi the family had boarded killing Sabuwala and the driver.
"As I was drunk, I was not able to understand the road," read her statement to the police.
Gadkar's blood report revealed she had 200mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood, which is more than 6 times the permissible limit — 30mg in 100ml.
Thirty five-year-old Gadkar, who was allegedly driving at a speed of more than 120kmph, was charged with rash driving and culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
What else did the police find? What did Gadkar tell cops? How Gadkar ended up on the wrong side of the Eastern Freeway? Here's all you need to know.
Tracing the route
On Thursday, police recreated the route that Gadkar took on the Eastern Freeway early on Tuesday morning. To nail down the details of her journey, police – accompanied by Gadkar and a few witnesses – travelled the route and recorded their statements. The police will submit this reconstruction as evidence in court.
They said Gadkar ascended the freeway on the correct side and drove up to a circle that connects six roads. After which she took a wrong turn and ended up heading back - towards south Mumbai.
"When she realised that she was going the wrong way, she took a U-turn in the same lane and started driving towards oncoming traffic," said a senior officer.
Gadkar drove for 2 to 3 kilometres on the wrong lane before crashing into the taxi at Shivaji Nagar.
"She was too drunk to realise she was driving on the wrong side," said the officer.
He added, "We are investigating all her claims and checking all CCTV footage from Marine Plaza to Wadi Bunder. We are trying to gather more evidence to strengthen our case and also cross-checking the discrepancies in her statements."
There are no CCTV cameras on the freeway.
The police are also looking into a claim that Gadkar may have visited a south Mumbai pub, after leaving Hotel Marine Plaza.
S Nishandar, deputy commissioner of police, zone 6, said a media professional told them he spotted Gadkar at a pub later that night and that they are investigating the claim.
In her statement to the police, Gadkar said she had bought her red Audi Q3 about a year ago and that she used it to commute daily from her home in Chembur to her office at Nariman Point via the Eastern Freeway.
A snap from the accident site. (HT Photo)
After work on Monday, she and two of her colleagues went to Marine Plaza for a small party as their company had bagged a new project. "Instead of beer, I had two pegs of Ballantine's whiskey for fun. After drinking, we ate dinner and I paid the bill. Around 10pm, we left the hotel for our respective homes."
Gadkar's photo after the crash. (HT Photo)
She told the police that she drove away but stopped at Marine Drive and sat in the car for nearly 2 hours to sober up and resumed her journey back home around 12.30am. She took a U-turn from Marine Drive and drove towards Churchgate, and onwards to PD’Mello Road. She rammed into the oncoming taxi near Shivaji Nagar Masjid.
Gadkar's photo after the crash. (HT Photo)
"Because of the airbags in my car, I was not injured but fell unconscious," she said. Gadkar told the police that when she came back to her senses, she saw the taxi she had rammed into was badly damaged. The impact of the crash was such that the front portion of the taxi was crushed. She also saw a mob around the two vehicles.
'It's a murder'
Nilofar (in pic above), the daughter of 57-year-old taxi driver Mohammed Sayyed, said, "We call something an accident when it is done by mistake, but [Gadkar] did not do this [drink and drive] by mistake. She is a lawyer and was well aware of the consequences of her actions, so how can it be an accident? It is murder."
"What an ignorant person [Gadkar] is. She is well-educated and knows what can happen if she drinks and drives. She knows what will
happen if she drives on the wrong side of the road. And on top of everything, she thought she could just throw money at the problem and make it disappear. This is absolutely ridiculous," she said.
"She should be given a severe sentence. If she does not face the consequences of her actions, she will remain as ignorant as she was before the incident," said Nilofar, 30, who has been living in England for the past 8 years.