Thiruvananthapuram

Kerala journalist death: ‘police destroyed evidence’

Journalist K.M. Basheer was killed when a car rammed into his motorcycle in Thiruvanathapuram

Journalist K.M. Basheer was killed when a car rammed into his motorcycle in Thiruvanathapuram   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The high-profile case relating to the death of journalist K. M. Basheer in a purportedly drunk driving accident involving a car allegedly driven by IAS officer Sriram Venkitaraman in October has taken a turn with the de facto complainant in the case moving the court to investigate the State police on the charge of ‘disappearance of evidence’ and conspiracy to save the accused bureaucrat.

 

The petitioner, Saifudeen Haji, the unit manager of Siraj newspaper where Basheer worked, has also requested the court to discard the statement of facts filed by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) and to direct the law enforcement to file a ‘periodical stage report of the investigation’ before the judge.

The State government had transferred the case to the Crime Branch (CB) recently after it disagreed with the SIT’s finding that the failure on the part of the police to put Mr Venkitaraman and his co-passenger, a woman, through a breath analyser and blood alcohol test as a mere ‘lapse.’

 

In an affidavit filed in the court of the Judicial First Class Magistrate-III here recently, S. Chandrasekharan Nair, counsel for Mr Haji, demanded a probe into the circumstances under which Mr. Venkitaraman left the General Hospital for a private medical facility allegedly against the advice of the police and purportedly without allowing Government doctors to take his blood sample. Mr Nair demanded that the police produce Mr Venkitaraman's treatment records in court.

Mr Nair’s plea came against the backdrop of unconfirmed reports that a retired IAS officer had stepped in to save the accused from prosecution for culpable homicide induced by alcohol-impaired rash driving.

Currently, investigators have no statutory medical certificate stating that Mr Venkitaraman was drunk at the time of the crash. His counsel has maintained that the accident was an involuntary offence, which did not justify prosecution for culpable homicide.

The CB is reportedly constrained to bank on testimonies of doctors, first responders, police officers and witnesses to prove their case against Mr Venkitaraman.

Circumstantial

Notably, their tranche of mostly circumstantial evidence includes testimony by Venkitaraman’s co-passenger that she sensed the bureaucrat was ‘mildly’ under the influence of alcohol when he took control of the car from her. It has also asked the automaker to submit its crash investigation report to determine the speed of the vehicle at the time of impact.

The bureaucrat is under suspension, and the government had revoked his driving licence.

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Printable version | Aug 9, 2020 9:01:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/accident-death-police-destroyed-evidence/article29578680.ece

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