Thiruvananthapuram: IAS officer Sriram Venkitaraman has been arrested for drunken driving, speeding and crashing his car, fatally knocking down journalist K.M. Basheer at the Museum junction, barely 50 metres away from the Museum police station in the city around 12.45 am on Saturday.
Sources said Mr Venkitaraman, fresh from a Fulbright training in the US and on posting as Survey and Land Records director in Thiruvananthapuram, was on a high after a party at a posh club in the city. After the late-night bash, he summoned companion and NRI model Wafa Firoz to drive home in her car. But he got into the driver's seat and sped away, with the friend beside, crashing into Siraj city bureau chief Basheer, who was on the phone after parking his bike beside the road.
Mr Venkitaraman, 32, reputed for his bold action against encroachers in Munnar, has been slapped with IPC 304 — manslaughter not amounting to murder — and rash and negligent driving and deliberate attempt to destroy evidence.
As per the sections charged, he could be sentenced to 10 years in jail. Mr Basheer, 35, hailing from Malappuram, leaves behind his wife Jaseela and two daughters Jema, 7, and Ami, six months. He was the son of late Vadakkara Muhammed Haji Thangal and Thichachumma. The body would be laid to rest on Sunday.
The police, despite arriving on the scene soon after the fatal accident, allegedly tried to shield the suspect by not insisting on a breathalyser, urine or blood test, giving him the benefit of a misconceived notion that the suspect cannot be subjected to test to confirm his inebriated state against his will.
The CCTV footage recovered from the Public Office premises confirmed that the car coming from Vellayambalam, rammed into the two-wheeler that overturned before smashing into the office compound wall. The time taken by the police in recovering the CCTV visuals had raised many eyebrows.
After the police action led to much criticism, on social media, the police subjected him to a blood test some nine and a half hours after the fatal accident.
Earlier, the police had charged him with 304 A of the IPC which dealt with causing death by negligence. Motor vehicle department has initiated steps to cancel the licence of both the officer and his companion.
Meanwhile, the State Human Rights Commission asked the Museum police as to why they had not collected the blood samples. Chairman Justice Antony Dominic said the State police chief and City Commissioner had been asked to submit their reports within ten days.
Initially, Ms Firoz claimed she was at the wheel, parroting the officer's version. But she later admitted to the police that Mr Venkitaraman was drunk and at the wheel, a statement she subsequently made before the magistrate.
The police initially claimed that the car was driven by its owner, Wafa Firoze of Marappalam.
However, Shafeeq and Manikuttan, who had witnessed the incident, told media persons that it was the IAS official who was driving.
They also said Mr Venkitaraman, a trained medical doctor who completed post-graduation as a general physician before joining IAS, was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the incident.
Mr Manikuttan told reporters that the officer, though injured, got out of the car, took him from the bike and laid him on the roadside. Soon the policemen from the nearby station reached the spot and shifted him to hospital.
The failure of the police to subject the passengers to medical test soon after the accident has also been questioned.
Initially, Ms Firoz was allowed to go home in a taxi from the accident scene. She was later summoned by the Museum police and subjected to a medical test only after journalists in the scene protested.
Additional commissioner of police, Thiruvananthapuram, Sanjay Kumar Gurudin, told reporters that certain legal formalities have to be followed in case a person refuses to undergo medical tests.
People from various walks of life, including Chief Minister Pinrayi Vijayan and Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala, reached Press Club to pay homage....