Journalist dies month after road accident

According to the police, the Swift Dzire car that rammed the rickshaw was driven by Gaurav Batra, an assistant director with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

New Delhi: The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) official who was allegedly responsible for the accident that fatally injured journalist Renu Agal and a rickshaw puller last month was drunk at the time of the accident, Delhi Police has said.

The official has been identified as Gaurav Batra, 39, who also allegedly injured a pedestrian with his erratic driving before his vehicle — a hatchback — rammed the rickshaw on which Agal was heading home. The accident occurred in North Delhi’s Civil Lines area on 25 March.

ThePrint’s Hindi Editor Agal, who suffered grievous head injuries in the accident, died Wednesday night at a hospital in Noida. She leaves behind her parents and a sister. The rickshaw puller, Chand, died on 1 April at a Delhi hospital.

“We found out that he (Batra) was under the influence of alcohol from the medical report right after the accident. Subsequently, an FIR was lodged. Immediate assistance was provided to the injured, police personnel also helped with the documentation needed for Renu Agal’s treatment,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (North) Anto Alphonse said.

A senior police officer said “Gaurav Batra’s blood samples have been sent for examination to determine the quantity of alcohol in his blood”. The samples, the officer said, were sent for processing a month ago. They should have arrived by now, the officer added, saying they are following up with the lab.

“Further action will be taken after reports are in,” the officer added.

After the accident, Batra, identified by police as an assistant director at the DRDO, was booked on a complaint filed by a constable who witnessed the accident.

Batra was arrested the same day, but released on bail on 26 March. He was initially charged under IPC sections 337 (whoever causes hurt to any person by doing any act so rashly or negligently as to endanger human life), and 279 (rash driving or riding on a public way). After Chand’s death, the FIR was updated to invoke Section 304A (causing death by negligence). All of these are bailable sections.

If Batra’s blood alcohol level is found to be above the permissible limit, he will be charged accordingly, the unnamed officer quoted above said, adding that the DRDO official was also speeding.

According to the complaint filed by the Delhi Police constable, identified only as Anil, Agal and the rickshaw puller weren’t the first people who Batra injured that evening.

Batra allegedly also hit a pedestrian — 30-year old Sudhir Lal — just a couple of minutes before his car threw Agal and Chand off the rickshaw, says the complaint, a copy of which is with ThePrint. Sudhir also suffered multiple injuries in the accident, including fractures.

“Around 5.15 pm, I was waiting for my colleague Ct (Constable) Ramesh near IP College bus stand when I saw a car coming from Vidhan Sabha (side), being driven rashly and in a zig-zag manner,” the constable said in his complaint.

“The driver lost control of the vehicle and hit a pedestrian right after crossing the bus stand, after which he rammed into the cycle rickshaw, and the woman and the rickshaw puller fell on the road. The cycle rickshaw was completely damaged,” he added.

The driver managed to escape the accident spot but the constable, who was on a motorcycle, managed to apprehend him with the help of two local residents at Sham Nath Marg near Haryana Bhavan.

Batra, a resident of Delhi’s Kali Bari Mandir Marg area, was taken to hospital for a medical examination, and police were subsequently informed that he was under the influence of alcohol.

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