The 46-year-old man, arrested by Mumbai police for allegedly driving his car over eight people in Crawford market late on Monday, has told the police that he had an epileptic attack at the time of the incident.
His family members told The Indian Express that he has been undergoing treatment for epilepsy for the last three years. The police alleged his family once “faked his death” to prevent his arrest in another case over two decades ago. The accused’s family denied it.
The accused, identified as Sameer Ali, was nabbed from the spot after the car dragged a woman for a few metres before crashing into the wall of Cafe Janata. The police said three women — Saroja Naidu, Zubeda Abdul Khan and Saira Banu — died on the spot. A man identified as Mohamed Naeem died during treatment while another person, Kamlesh Singh (21), succumbed early on Tuesday. Three others are still recovering in hospital.
Ali has been booked under relevant sections of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, and rash and negligent driving. He was produced in court on Tuesday and remanded in police custody till September 4. The police said reports have confirmed he was not driving under the influence of alcohol and his blood samples have been sent to the forensic department to ascertain whether he was under the influence of any drugs while driving.
This is the second time this year that Ali, a scrap trader, has been involved in an accident. On May 12, he had rammed his car into another vehicle. A woman had sustained minor injuries but she did not want to register a case. A constable became the complainant and a case was lodged. At the time, his vehicle, an Esteem, was seized by the JJ Marg police. However, a month ago, Ali bought a similar second-hand silver colour Esteem from an online site, his son Shams said.
Ali has previously been charged with assaulting his wife, and for dealing in counterfeit currency, and even in a case of inciting religious sentiments. He has been in and out of prison in connection with these cases. There were two counterfeit currency cases against him in 1997, one at JJ Marg police and another in Jaisalmer, and it was in the latter that the family allegedly told the police that he was dead.
“When the Jaisalmer police came to Mumbai to arrest him in 1997, the family had allegedly made a fake death certificate,” an officer said, adding, “But 20 years later, when they got separated, his wife called the Jaisalmer police informing that he is alive following which the Jaisalmer police with the help of JJ Marg police had arrested him. However, he was discharged by the court later.”
Family members denied the allegation that they had faked Ali’s death. They also said he had an epilepsy attack on August 15 and was found on the pavement. Speaking to The Indian Express, his brother Shera said, “After he was arrested, my advocate Ganesh Iyer went to meet my elder brother. Sameer told him that he had an epileptic attack while driving and does not remember what happened in those minutes.”
The family said that till 2017, he worked as a taxi driver and since the time he started suffering from epilepsy, they stopped him from driving a taxi. “After the first accident, we would always stop him from driving any car and he listened for a few days but then he would drive the car without our knowledge,” said Shera.
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