India: Bengaluru police book Kalyani Motors after mom, son killed in faulty vehicle fire

Bengaluru car fire
Representational Image Reuters

Bengaluru police have booked Kalyani Motors, a well-known authorised dealer and service centre for Maruti Suzuki, for a deadly car fire that killed a mother and her 4-year-old son on Friday, February 2, in Whitefield area.

The incident took place while the Bengaluru-based woman was trying to park her Maruti Ritz car in the basement parking lot of the Sumadhura Anandam apartment complex in Whitefield. The deceased, identified as Neha Varma, the wife of a private firm employee Rajesh, had gone for shopping along with her only son Param. But it became their last shopping ever due to the fatal accident.

Sudam B. Naik, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Whitefield said that the duo died due to electrical and mechanical faults in the car. The authorities have booked Kalyani Motors under Section 304(A) (causing death by negligence) of the Indian Penal Code, he said.

"The victim's husband Madhur, has given a statement alleging that the clutch assembly and brake shoes were replaced when the Maruti Ritz VXI was given for service seven months ago. No modification was made to the car," ACP Sudam told TNM.

According to the police, the service supervisor and the service staff of Kalyani Motors, a dealer of Maruti Suzuki in the city, will be questioned to determine what led to the fire.

"There are several possibilities. First, we have to find out if genuine parts were used to replace the old ones. Besides, it also remains to be seen whether genuine parts were used for electrical components. The report from the forensic science lab (FSL), which will reveal these details, is awaited," ACP Sudam added.

The security cameras installed in the parking space have captured the image of the vehicle entering the apartment compound and heading towards the basement at around 3.25 pm. Reports said that the fire was ignited immediately and both the victims, who were seated on the front seats of the car, were found charred to death inside the vehicle.

In an interview with TNM, a service supervisor with Maruti Suzuki said that if the keys were in the ignition when the car caught fire, the doors would automatically get locked.

"With a VXI, the car is auto-locked if the engine is on and the keys are in the ignition. If a fire happens during such an instance, then the fuse in the car goes off. This cuts off the electricity supply to all electrical components in the car, which could be one explanation as to why the woman and her son could not get out of it," the service supervisor said.

He added that if the engine was off and yet the doors were not unlocked, that means it is an electrical fault.

Meanwhile, the case investigating officer said that the FSL report will shed light on all the suspicions. "If it turns out that the car service personnel were at fault, then we will book the said persons for negligence. But until then, we cannot book any people. Hence, we have booked Kalyani Motors under 304(A). When the FSL report comes, we will take further action. We have ruled out the possibility of someone setting the car on fire after the preliminary investigation," he told TNM.

Although this latest deadly car fire case is still under investigation, it has surely triggered several safety questions over the servicing centres. If such incidents happen at authorised service centres, then the lives of several people are apparently at stake in the city.

However, this case has given a warning to all the car owners to be alert from now onwards, whether they are Japanese auto firms or Indian.