Lessons from a Tragedy: The Pune Porsche Accident

The tragic and untimely death of Ashwini Koshta and Aneesh Awadhya – two young software engineers,  on May 19, 2024, by a speeding Porsche car driven by an allegedly inebriated 17-and-a-half-year-old minor in the Yerawada area of Pune not only made us witness a darker narrative of the manipulation of the legal system by the wealthy and influential, but also underscored the detrimental consequences of overprotection and blind indulgence by parents and guardians, ultimately leading to disastrous outcomes for their children later in life. The investigation in this case revealed elaborate attempts by the family, doctors, police, and local politicians to cover up the crime committed by a teenager who is the only heir to the family fortunes, which runs in several hundred crores. An uproar on social media and protests on the streets of Pune ultimately forced the authorities to probe the case on the basis of the First Information Report (FIR) lodged by Awadhya’s friends.

Alcohol is a subject in the State List under List 2 (Entry 51 and Entry 54) of the seventh schedule of the Constitution of India, giving wide legislative powers to frame, modify and regulate alcohol laws in their territory. Maharashtra has a permit system under the Bombay Prohibition Act 1949. According to this Act, purchasing and drinking alcohol without a permit is an offence. The permissible drinking age in Maharashtra is 25 years according to the laws but various bars, pubs and wine shops have notices proclaiming that alcohol will not be sold to anyone below the age of 21, whereas the minor and his friends were served alcohol at two establishments, despite being underage, raising serious question on the implementation of the law. The owners of the two pubs were later arrested under Sections 75 (wilful neglect of a child) and 77 (supplying a child with intoxicating liquor or drugs) under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, when the issue spiralled on the social media. Similarly, the Motor Vehicles Act 1939 states that no person under the age of eighteen years shall drive a motor vehicle in any public place and will not be issued driving license. However, the law is being overlooked by parents with an alarming ease, as in this case.

The minor was produced before the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) which kept aside the request of the Police to try the boy as an adult. Also, within 15 hours, the JJB also granted conditional bail to the minor and was asked to work with the ‘Yerawada traffic police for 15 days, write a 300 word essay on the accident, get treatment to quit drinking and to seek psychiatric counseling’. Two days later, following a public outcry over these conditions, the JJB cancelled the bail and remanded the minor to an Observation Home until June 5, which was further extended till June 12.

Beyond the criticism and uproar over JJB’s direction, the issue needs to be seen in the larger legal context, as the underlying philosophy of the Juvenile Justice Act is different from the Criminal Justice System. The accused minor is four months short of becoming an ‘adult’. The directions of the JJ Board was in the context of the ‘process’ to be followed for ‘adjudication and disposal of matters in the best interest of the children’, setting up a system distinct from the adult criminal justice system for apprehension, detention, prosecution, penalty, imprisonment, rehabilitation and social reintegration of children in conflict with law’. The basic tenet of the JJ Act is to focus on rehabilitation and social reintegration of the child rather than punishment.

Also, one needs to understand that the process, in the current case, was not complete for the accused minor and the directions given by the JJB were only part of a bail order, not a final order which comes only after examining the evidence, the circumstances of the accident, the intention of the accused and the background of the accused including any past records of rash driving.

Also important is to refer to the decision of the bench of Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Aniruddha Bose of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the ‘Mercedes Hit and Run Case’ of 2016 in which a ‘minor’ allegedly ran over a 32-year-old marketing executive Siddharth Sharma in his father’s Mercedes, when the victim was trying to cross over a road near Ludlow Castle School in North Delhi on April 04, 2016. The Court had said that an offence which does not provide a minimum sentence of seven years cannot be treated to be a heinous offence. The Hon’ble Supreme Court noticed the lacuna in the legislation, invoked its inherent power under Article 142 of the Constitution, and held that category of offences viz., offence where the maximum sentence is more than 7 years imprisonment, but no minimum sentence or minimum sentence of less than 7 years is provided, shall be treated as ‘serious offences’ within the meaning of the Act. As the minor boy was accused of an offence under Section 304 IPC i.e. Culpable homicide not amounting to murder, the punishment for which may extend to ten years, but there is no minimum punishment prescribed. So this kind of offence was not categorized into petty, serious or heinous under the Juvenile Justice Act.

If a child (irrespective of age) is found to have committed a petty offence, or a serious offence, the Juvenile Justice Board has several options, depending on the circumstances and evidence on record  –  it can allow the child to go home after advice or admonition by following appropriate inquiry and counselling, order the child to perform community service under the supervision of an organisation or institution, order the child or parents/guardian to pay fine, direct the child to be sent to a special home, for such period, not exceeding three years, as it thinks fit, for providing reformative services including education, skill development, counselling, behaviour modification therapy, and psychiatric support during the period of stay in the special home.

However, if a person, aged more than sixteen but less than eighteen, like the boy in this case, who is alleged to have committed a heinous offence can be, subject to preliminary assessment, tried as an adult as per the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure by the Children’s Court. But, even if a child commits a heinous crime, he is not automatically to be tried as an adult. Had the child been above 18 or above 18 years even by one day, he might have got the punishment of imprisonment up to ten years. It is thus clear that any person below the age of 18 years and is alleged to have committed an offence under Sec 304 IPC viz culpable homicide not amounting to murder, cannot be tried as an adult. 

Parents have a crucial role in preventing their minor children from engaging in drinking and driving. Their responsibilities extend beyond mere supervision and encompass a range of proactive measures to ensure their children’s safety and legal compliance. In the Pune case, the father of the minor, a well-known realtor, as well as the mother seem to be completely blind in ‘putra-moh’ as they totally forgot to set boundaries. Every parent, irrespective of their socio-economic status, should realize that the family values and setting goals should be the top-priority for their children. This is to be done by inculcating discipline and respect for elders, peers, friends, society, country and of-course laws of the country.

My experience of working with both the category of children – under the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act 2000/2006/2015 and Model Rules 2016, namely children in need of care and protection (CNCP) and the children in conflict with law (CCL), shows that one of the major reasons behind the increasing number of crimes in the society by juveniles is that their parents have never set any boundaries for their children and not even taught them to respect laws of the country. In this case, boy’s father and his family also did the same. The arrest of family members further established the fact that the entire family of the minor is more liable for his present state of mind and impulsive behavior who with time and age became a spoiled brat.

There are millions of Indian parents, including affluent parents, who succumb to their children’s emotions, whims & fancies either in the name of love or to show off to the society the power of wealth which can buy everything including police, medical doctors and of course even the legal provisions can also be twisted.

Tackling rising crimes by juveniles will not be possible only through stricter laws, rather society and families need to make genuine efforts in raising their children through a sense of discipline and value system. Parenting comes with a lot of responsibilities and sensitivity. In real sense, child rearing is not over indulgence, not only blind love and support for them, it should be setting rules and boundaries. Such rearing will produce socially sensitive and law-abiding children in the future who are going to run the country once they become major.

(Author is Co-Founder of Children Unbound Foundation and former Joint Secretary & Director (Projects) of Prayas JAC Society. He can be reached at vishwajeet@cuf.org.in)

2 thoughts on “Lessons from a Tragedy: The Pune Porsche Accident

  1. The author has delved deep in to the systemic gaps and it is a learning for the citizens and the change makers .
    Great depiction

  2. This is the result of yes parenting when parents do not know how to say no to the children.
    Over indulgence,guilt owing to our preoccupation with careers and other areas of our lives as well as always being under pressure to project a materially wealthy lifestyle allows young impressionable children to assume they can get away with anything.

    Even more disastrous is the attempted cover up.Two young people have lost their lives.Very well written and explained about the legal ramifications of this incident.

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