State Environment Minister Mariyam Pichai was killed in an accident on the Tiruchi-Chennai national highway at Thiruvalakurichi in Perambalur district on Monday, just hours before he was to attend the oath-taking ceremony of newly elected MLAs in Chennai.

Accompanied by a personal security officer and four party functionaries, the 61-year-old Minister was travelling in a car allotted to him by the government to take part in the function at the Assembly when the vehicle rammed a container truck. Police are on the lookout for the truck.

Mr. Pichai, who was seated in the front seat, sustained grievous injuries and died while being taken to hospital. The personal security officer and two party functionaries sustained injuries.

According to the police, the car driver was trying to overtake the truck. The driver told the police that he lost control when the truck suddenly swerved towards the right. A resident of Sangiliandapuram in the city, Mr. Pichai left for Chennai from here after garlanding a statue of Perarasar Perumpidugu Mutharayar. It turned out to be his first and last official programme here after taking charge as Environment Minister last Monday.

Minister for Sports and Youth Welfare N.R. Sivapathi was also proceeding to Chennai by road in another car.

The body of Mr. Pichai was brought to Annal Gandhi Memorial Government Headquarters Hospital here where post-mortem was conducted.

Chief Minister Jayalalithaa said the CB-CID would thoroughly investigate the “mysterious” death. “Family members [of the Minister] and the public say the death is suspicious.”

The CB CID will carry out an investigation and the culprits, whoever they are, will be punished, the Chief Minister said after flying in from Chennai to offer her condolences.

Even as Ms. Jayalalithaa stepped on to the premises of Mariyam Theatre at Sangiliandapuram, where the body was kept for the public to pay homage, party workers raised slogans that the newly sworn-in AIADMK Minister was murdered by his political adversary and demanded strong action.