A day after his arrest, Kerala IAS officer Sriram Venkitaraman, who allegedly drove a car in an "intoxicated" state and fatally knocked down a journalist, was on Sunday shifted to the "remand cell" in the Government Medical College Hospital here, police said. The officer was moved to the medical college hospital after pressure mounted on the state government with the victim's family raising fears about the course of the probe and the journalist fraternity in the state alleging he was being extended five-star facilities despite being remanded to judicial custody.
The Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) threatened to stage a protest in front of the KIMS Hospital, where the officer had got himself admitted soon after the accident in the early hours of Saturday. Venkitaraman was arrested on Saturday night, nearly 17 hours after the accident that triggered outrage and later remanded to 14 days judicial custody by a magistrate who visited him at the KIMS Hospital.
On Sunday evening, amid tight security and high drama, Venkitaraman was brought out of the private hospital in a stretcher with a face mask after being discharged. The 33-year-old officer, seen lying motionless on the stretcher with his spectacles on, was wheeled into a hi-tech ambulance and first taken to the residence of Judicial First Class Magistrate Amal S R.
The magistrate examined the medical reports and the accused inside the ambulance and directed that the officer be taken to the district jail at nearby Poojappura. "Magistrate ordered him to be shifted to jail. Over there, the prison authorities will take a call whether Venkitaraman needs to be shifted to medical college or not," IGPand Thiruvananthapuram Police Commissioner Dinendra Kashyap told PTI then.
The ambulance with the officer was in front of the jail premises for nearly two hours after which he was examined by the Jail medical officer, who recommended that the accused be shifted to the remand cell at the Medical College Hospital. Venkitaraman, a doctor himself, had allegedly driven the car in an intoxicated state and knocked down K Mohammed Basheer (35), Thiruvananthapuram Bureau Chief of Malayalam daily "Siraj" while he had stopped his two-wheeler for answering a phone call early Saturday.
The officer after getting admitted to the private hospital 'refused' to give his blood sample and also told police initially that it was his woman friend, Wafa Firoze, a model and wife of Dubai based businessman, who was driving the car. However, Wafa in her statement to police maintained that Venkitaraman, who was allegedly drunk, was driving the vehicle when the mishap occurred.
Apprehending that the investigation in the case would not go in the right direction, Basheer's family Sunday demanded that the accused be shifted to a government hospital as early as possible. The KIMS hospital was tight-lipped about the injuries and the treatment he had undergone there.
According to police, the officer had suffered injuries in his left hand which was seen plastered. The civil servant, who was appointed Survey Director by the state cabinet on August 1, 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.
Venkitaraman has moved the Chief Judicial Magistrate court here seeking bail and the plea is likely to consider on Monday. As opposition Congress raised apprehensions that the officer might use his position to bail himself out, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan sent out a stern message on Sunday saying his government would not protect any official who violates the law irrespective of the position he or she holds.
"Everyone is equal before law and justice. The position or the rank of the accused will not be a hindrance for police to exercise their duty and take action," Vijayan said. Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly Ramesh Chennithala of Congress demanded that the officer be suspended.
"The failure to collect the blood sample of Venkitaraman immediately after the accident is a serious lapse on behalf of the police. The government must suspend the IAS officer who had killed a journalist in drunken drive accident," Chennithala said in a statement. He also wanted the Chief Minister to intervene since there was a possibility of the officer using his high-level connections to bail himself out of the case.
"The medical report of Venkitaraman, who was under treatment in a private hospital, must be released as soon as possible. The government must immediately appoint a team of doctors to examine the health condition of the accused," Chennithala said. Venkitaraman, a Fullbright Fellow, had just returned to the state after completing higher studies abroad and was returning after a party in a private club in a posh area of the capital city when the mishap occurred.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)