Kerala IAS officer arrested for journalist’s death in accident

The car allegedly driven by 33-year-old Sriram Venkitaraman slammed K.M. Basheer’s motorbike in front of the Public Office Complex at around 1 a.m. The victim, bureau Chief at the Malayalam newspaper Siraj, was flung off his bike, and killed almost instantly.

Updated - June 08, 2020 10:35 pm IST

Published - August 03, 2019 03:02 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

Sriram Venkitaraman. Photo: Special Arrangement

Sriram Venkitaraman. Photo: Special Arrangement

The Kerala Police on Saturday arrested high-profile IAS officer Sriram Venkitaraman on charges of alcohol-impaired, reckless driving resulting in the death of K. M. Basheer , a journalist , early on Saturday.

The car allegedly driven by 33-year-old Dr. Venkitaraman slammed Basheer’s motorbike in front of the Public Office Complex at around 1 a.m. The victim, bureau Chief at the Malayalam newspaper Siraj , was flung off his bike, and killed almost instantly.

Dr. Venkitaraman was reportedly returning after a party and was accompanied by a woman friend when the accident occurred.

He was later arrested from a private hospital where police had admitted him after the accident, and charged under Section 279 (Rash driving ) and 304 (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the IPC.

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

 

A magistrate was due to arrive at the hospital to decide whether he should be remanded in judicial custody or accorded bail.

 

An officer said an attempt on the part of the IAS officer to blame the fatal accident on his co-passenger had perhaps compelled the woman to depose against him. In her statement to a local magistrate, the woman said she had picked up Dr. Venkitaraman after a party at a private club in Kowdiar and he had insisted on taking the wheel though she had cautioned him that he was drunk.

Preliminary investigations suggested that the fingerprints lifted from the steering wheel of the car matched that of the accused, officers added. At least three eyewitnesses testified to his presence at the accident site and identified him as the driver. 

Cellphone records also showed that Dr. Venkitaraman near the accident spot.

The car rammed into the two-wheeler that overturned before smashing into the office compound wall.

The car rammed into the two-wheeler that overturned before smashing into the office compound wall.

 

Doctors at the General Hospital who attended to Dr. Venkitaraman immediately after the accident noted the “smell of alcohol in his breath”. However, they did not conduct a blood test. An examination conducted later indicated a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit, officers said. 

Investigators said they might alter the charges against the bureaucrat to culpable homicide under Section 299 since preliminary evidence indicated that the driver had taken the wheel aware that his alcohol-impaired state could result in death or injury to other road users. The provision entailed a punishment of imprisonment for life or ten years and fine.

Dr. Venkitaraman, a medical doctor and Fulbright scholar, was feted by the media as an anti-encroachment crusader when he was sub-collector, Idukki. However, his actions pitted him against the political leadership and he was transferred. He took a sabbatical from government service for higher studies and went on to earn a master’s in Public Health from Harvard. 

He was due to take charge as Director, Surveys and Land Records, on August 5.

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