Crime and influence: The family at the centre of the Pune Porsche crash | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times

Crime and influence: The family at the centre of the Pune Porsche crash

ByNadeem Inamdar
Jun 03, 2024 10:34 AM IST

The car in question, a top-end Porsche Taycan, was allowed to ply on Pune roads for two months without being registered

A rich, drunk teenager running his Porsche over two people in the dead of night would be a cliché in fiction. In real life, the events of May 19th in Pune that resulted in the deaths of two young techies---Ashwini Koshta and Aneesh Awadhiya—reveal a much darker tale of entitlement and institutional subversion .

The Porsche car found without a number plate in Pune on May 21. (PTI Photo)
The Porsche car found without a number plate in Pune on May 21. (PTI Photo)

But where does the origin of this impunity lie? In Tolstoy’s famous dictum, perhaps: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

The teenager is the only heir to his family’s fortunes, made first in the scrap metal business when the family migrated to Pune from Batala in Punjab in the 1960s, and then, more substantially, when they diversified into Pune’s burgeoning real estate and hospitality business in the 1980s. According to their business associates, the family’s business empire is estimated to be around 1,000 crores spanning hotels in Pune and Mahabaleshwar, land holdings and real estate. But this fortune was built on the back of an ugly family spat between the teenager’s grandfather on the one side and his three brothers on the other. “Initially they all lived as one strong joint family but over the years divergent business interests, differences over sharing of assets and resources deepened the fault lines,” says Pune businessman Aniket Changedia who has known the family for several years. But unlike other business families which split, the fight over shared resources got so bitter that the teenager’s grandfather allegedly commissioned an underworld hit on Shiv Sena leader Ajay Bhosale in 2009 who was close to one of the brothers and who refused to mediate on the grandfather’s behalf. “The immediate family members of the juvenile got into certain questionable land deals which was impacting the credibility of the whole group and it was the final nail,” says Changedia. Such was the bitterness that the two factions are no longer on talking terms.

The family formally split the business with the bulk of the five-star hotels in their portfolio going to the three brothers while the teenager’s grandfather and father got the commercial and residential real estate business that amounted then to 600 crore. In March 2012, the teen’s grandfather reconstituted the privately-held company into a into a public limited company. Its official website claims, “The group has developed 350 acres of land and has provided homes to more than 15000 families in addition to building a prominent hotel-cum-resort and club in the hill station of Mahabaleshwar.” The official Facebook pages shows the teenager’s father being feted by former Maharashtra Governor Bhagatsingh Koshyari.

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Cases against family

The decision maker in the teenager’s family however remains the patriarch grandfather. It was he who instructed the driver on their staff to let the teenager drive the Porsche despite having had alcohol and it was he again who tried to later coerce the driver into saying that he (the driver) was behind the wheel when the accident happened, and not the teenager. Pune police reveal that investigators are looking into four cases against the grandfather. One, in which he stands accused of hiring a Chhota Rajan hang member to kill Shiv Sena leader Ajay Bhosale and three others which pertain to cheating and criminal intimidation. “We have now expanded the ambit of the probe into the grandfather’s conduct post the accident to include his past cases,” said Pratap Mankar, senior police inspector, Pune Crime Branch. Though, they remain separate cases and have to be dealt with separately, it is clear the police want to expedite investigation into the businessman’s old cases.

Once the news of the crash became public knowledge, people who have known the family began speaking up. Sonali Tanpure, the wife of NCP (SP) lawmaker Prajakt Tanpure took to social media to talk about how the teenager and his friend once bullied her son who was their classmate to the extent that she had to pull him out of that school.

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The subversions

On the day of the accident, the teenager took his friends out to celebrate his class XII results. Despite being underage, they were served alcohol at two establishments, at Cosie where they ordered several rounds of vodka, whisky and beer and then again at a nightclub called Blak where they had more drinks. In Maharashtra, the legal age of drinking is 25, among the highest in the country along with Delhi and Punjab.The two establishments have since been sealed by the excise department and their owners arrested.

When the driver saw the teenager inebriated and insisting on getting behind the wheel, even though he had no licence as he was a minor, he called up the father who then consulted with the grandfather and ordered him (the driver) to let the teenager drive regardless.

Here on, a tragedy seemed inevitable. After the accident, the teenager’s father called the NCP (Ajit Pawar) lawmaker from Wadgaon Sheri, Sunil Tingre. Call records accessed by the police show the father called Tingre more than thirty times between 2.30am and 3am. When Tingre did not respond, the father went to his house and later accompanied him to Yerawada police station where the teenager was kept by the police. There, a burger and coke were ordered for the boy; the two officers on duty, inspector Rahul Jagdale and assistant inspector Vishwanath Todkari failed to inform their seniors about the gravity of the accident and applied relatively “weak’ sections of the IPC against the juvenile -- Section 304A which applies to causing death by negligence. The minor’s blood sample to check alcohol level in his blood was taken at 11 am, several hours after the accident, potentially allowing time for alcohol levels to be diluted. The two have since been suspended.

While the Yerwada police was doing the initial investigation, the grandfather attempted to coerce the driver into making a false confession that it was he who was driving at the time of the accident. When he refused to comply, he was held and threatened with darker consequences. The grandfather has since been arrested on charges of abduction.

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Preliminary investigation revealed that the car in question, a top-end Porsche Taycan, bought in March this year, was allowed to ply on Pune roads for two months without being registered. A temporary registration only allows for the vehicle to be taken from the dealer’s showroom to the owner’s home. However, in this case, the father of teenager had not paid the requisite road tax. The Pune RTO has since cancelled the car’s provisional registration and barred its reregistration for the next 12 months ensuring it does not hit the road in the next one year.

But the most grievous institutional subversion happened at Pune’s largest public hospital, Sassoon General, where the teenager was taken by the police for medical examination and extraction of blood to verify alcohol levels in his blood. There, the Casualty Medical Officer Dr Shrihari Halnor took the boy’s blood sample but swapped it with the blood sample of the teenager’s mother allegedly and which came negative, leading to initial police declaration that the teenager was not driving under influence. Dr Halnor, it later emerged had been offered 2.5 lakh by the head of the hospital’s forensic department, Dr Ajay Taware. Halnor, Taware and a third Sassoon staffer who was offered a bribe of 50,qs az000 for his collusion, have since been arrested and suspended from service.

ALSO READ- Pune Porsche accident: Teen driver admits to police he was drunk; mother says 'doctors asked me to…'

By why would Dr Ajay Taware offer this bribe to his colleague and be a party to this illegality? Taware who was the hospital’s medical superintendent had been asked by the Directorate of Medical Education and Research to step down in April 2022 for alleged malpractices in kidney transplant procedures. However, lawmaker Sunil Tingre, whose first job after he passed out from engineering college was with the teenager’s father, knew Dr Taware and interceded on his behalf. On December 26, 2023, Tingre wrote to his party colleague and minister for medical education, Hasan Mushrif to reinstate Dr Taware. “Dr Ajay Taware, known to me, is a professor and head of forensic medicine department. He has handled the post of medical superintendent and performed commendable duties during the COVID 19 pandemic. Therefore I request that appropriate action be taken at your level to appoint him as the medical superintendent of Sassoon General Hospital,” he wrote in his letter. Mushrif forwarded this to Sassoon CMO Dr Kale with instructions to reinstate Dr Taware.

The question for the police to probe now is whether MLA Tingre, an old acquaintance of the teenager’s father, and also of Dr Taware brought the two of them together to facilitate the inducements offered to Dr Halnor to swap the teenager’s blood sample.

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