IAS officer Sriram Venkitaraman was arrested here Saturday for causing the death of a scribe by allegedly driving in an inebirated state, police said. The 33-year-old IAS officer, who was appointed Survey Director by the state cabinet on Thursday, was arrested under Section 279 (Rash driving on a public way) and 304 (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the Indian Penal Code.
“We have recorded the arrest of Venkitaraman at the hospital.We have charged him under Section 279 and 304 of the IPC,” an investigating officer told PTI.
Venkitaraman, also a Medical doctor and Fullbright Fellow, allegedly drove his car in a rash manner and hit the stationary motorcycle of K Muhammed Basheer (35), Bureau Chief of Malayalam newspaper ‘Siraj’, at a road in the heart of the city as he was returning home from work.
Basheer is survived by his wife and two children. The IAS officer had recently returned to the state after completing higher studies abroad. He was accompanied by model-friend Wafa Firoze, the owner of the luxury car.
Meanwhile, people from various walks of life, including Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, state ministers Kadakampally Surendran, E Chandrashekharan, P Thilothaman, Opposition leader in the assembly Ramesh Chennithala, CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran and other MLAs paid their respects to the mortal remains of Basheer at the Press Club here.
The journalist fraternity here paid a tearful adieu to Basheer, who was a popular face among the media and social circle for over 12 years. His mortal remains were later taken to his home town at Vatakara in Kozhikode. Venkitaraman was reportedly returning after a party in a club in a posh area of the capital city.
Police came under severe criticism as it took nearly nine hours for them to collect the blood sample of the officer for medical examination, even as eye witnesses told police and the media that Venkitaraman was found drunk behind the wheels.
There were twists and turns in the incident as the IAS officer initially claimed it was his friend who drove the car. However, the witnesses maintained that it was a man who came out of the driver’s side in a drunken state.
Later, Wafa Firoze also gave a statement to the police that it was Venkitaraman who was driving her car. Police said they had taken Wafa to the magistrate to record her statement. Parts of the motorbike and the car were strewn around and Basheer’s slippers and some articles were found metres away from the accident spot.
Eyewitnesses told television channels that the car overtook some autorickshaws and hit the motorcycle at high speed. Under the impact of the collision, Basheer was flung off his bike, suffering serious injuries and died on the spot.
Venkitaraman, who is also injured, has been admitted to a private hospital here. The Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) has demanded a proper and truthful investigation in the case to bring the guilty to book.
Transport Minister A K Saseendran said IAS officers should set an example to others by following rules strictly. The officials of the motor vehicle department said that the driving licence of the officer would be suspended.
Expressing deep shock and grief, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the media fraternity had lost a member who had a bright future. Ramesh Chennithala and Kadakkampally Surendran were among those who expressed grief on the death of the journalist.
The KUWJ has also shot off separate letters to Vijayan and DGP Loknath Behera, demanding an impartial and transparent probe into the incident and that culprits be booked.
A second rank holder in the 2013 Civil Service exam, Venkitaraman had shot into the limelight for taking a strong stand against encroachers on government land at the hill station of Munnar in Idukki district while serving as the Devikulam sub-collector in 2017.
He gained media attention when he had brought down a 30-feet tall metal cross, put up under the garb of ‘spiritual tourism’ at Papathychola in Munnar, as part of an official anti-encroachment drive.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had expressed strong displeasure over his act and his cabinet colleague M M Mani had kicked up a controversy for making unsavoury remarks against the IAS officer.
The Left government had later transferred and appointed Venkitaram as the Employment and Training Director.