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Millennium Post

Eyewitnesses identify Reliance driver after being ‘compensated’

Retracting her earlier statement, Ruparel has now ‘identified’ Bansilal Joshi, the 55-year-old chauffeur working for Reliance Industries, as the person behind the wheels at the time of the 8 December accident on Peddar Road.

This change of heart happened right after Ruparel and Vikram Mishra, owners of two cars smashed by the speeding Aston Martin Rapide owned by industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Group, were compensated with brand new cars. According to a Mumbai Mirror report on Thursday, 26 December, Foram Ruparel, 25, whose Audi A6 was damaged in the accident, and senior pharma executive Vikram Mishra, whose Hyundai Elantra’s boot and bumper were knocked out of shape, received their new cars on Tuesday as a splendid Christmas gift. While Ruparel got an identical Audi A6, Mishra received an upgrade with a Skoda Superb.

On Monday, both Ruparel and Mishra had informed the Gamdevi police, who are investigating the accident, that they were not interested in pursuing the case any further. Tushar Ruparel, Foram’s father, claimed on Wednesday that people from Reliance were in touch with the two families over the last week to discuss a settlement. But in the evening, Foram Ruparel claimed that she was compensated by the insurance company. However, the question remains which were the insurance companies that settled the matter so fast and gave back not just brand new cars, but in Mishra’s case, presented a costlier model.

There has been a studied silence in the national media on the case (barring very small news items), and except Mumbai Mirror and Millennium Post, no other newspaper or news channel has asked pointed questions on the matter. In fact, NDTV carried a tiny innocuous story on Wednesday, 25 December, saying that the person on the wheels in the Aston Martin Rapide during the time of the accident has been ‘identified’ as the 55-year-old Bansilal Joshi, who had ‘surrendered’ before the Mumbai police in the afternoon of 8 December, several hours after the late night accident.

Although two sets of fingerprints were discovered by forensic experts from the speeding car, we still do not know who they belonged to. Even if one set of fingerprints were Joshi’s, what about the other set? News channels such as Zee 24 Taas had claimed earlier that a ‘fully drunk’ Akash Ambani was at the wheels in the car when the accident took place. Moreover, signals from the mobile tower had pointed out that Bansilal Joshi was not present at the time of the accident. Later reports indicated that the CCTV footage of the Peddar Road accident could not be traced by the Mumbai police.

Hence, gaping holes still remain in the ‘official’ account of the Aston Martin hit-and-run case. Firstly, why was there a delay of more than two weeks in recording the eyewitness statements, when Joshi had given himself up on 8 December itself? Secondly, why has Foram Ruparel retracted her earlier statement (given to Mumbai Mirror journalist Mustafa Shaikh, who has the transcript on WhatsApp), where she categorically said that she had seen a young man on the driving wheel, who was whisked away in the tailing SUVs?

Thirdly, why were the security SUVs following the Aston Martin Rapide if there was Joshi in the car at 1:30 am, and not any member of the Ambani family?  Why was it heading in the opposite direction away from the maintenance outpost? Finally, why would an insurance company ‘upgrade’ the damaged model in compensation, as is the case with Vikram Mishra, who has received a Skoda Superb instead of a Hyundai Elantra?
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