Kerala IAS officer arrested for killing journalist in road accident

K Muhammed Basheer and Sriram Venkitaraman

Thiruvananthapuram: IAS officer Sriram Venkitaraman, who was arrested Saturday after a car he drove in an allegedly inebriated condition fatally knocked down a journalist here, was remanded in judicial custody, police said.

The 33-year-old IAS officer, who was appointed Survey Director by the State cabinet on Thursday, was booked under sections 279 (rash driving on a public way) and 304 (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the Indian Penal Code, they said.

“The magistrate came to the hospital where he was admitted and remanded him in judicial custody for 14 days,” an investigating officer told PTI. The official has been charged under a non-bailable offence and the provision provides for a jail term of up to 10 years, IGP and Thiruvananthapuram city Police Commissioner Dhinendra Kashyap told PTI.

Police said Venkitaraman will remain at the hospital as the doctors advised so. Venkitaraman, also a 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‘, on 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 just returned to Kerala after completing a Masters in Public Health Programme at Harvard University in the US. 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 Basheer after his mortal remains were brought to the Press Club here.

The journalist fraternity here paid a tearful adieu to Basheer. The body was later taken to his home town at Vatakara in Kozhikode for the burial, which is to be held later tonight.

Venkitaraman was reportedly returning after a party in a club in a posh area of the capital city and driving the car. His woman friend Wafa Firoze was also in the vehicle at the time of the accident.

Police came under severe criticism as it took them nearly nine hours to collect the blood sample of the officer for medical examination, even as eyewitnesses told police and the media that Venkitaraman was found drunk behind the wheels. Venkitaraman, who was also injured, got himself admitted to a private hospital here.

A second rank holder in the 2013 Civil Services 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 anti-encroachment drive.