A day after Thiruvananthapuram-based journalist KM Basheer was killed in an accident, questions continue to linger about the alleged police laxity in the investigation from the time the accident took place around 1 am on Saturday.
Basheer was killed after his bike was rammed by a car allegedly driven by IAS officer Sriram Venkitaraman, who is currently the Survey Director. Sriramâ€™s friend Wafa was also in the car at the time of the accident.
Aravind Sasi, a journalist with Kala Kaumudi and a long-time friend of Basheer, recalls the sequence of events after he came to know that Basheer was hit by a car. Aravind was informed about the incident by a fellow journalist who had been informed by the police after getting Basheerâ€™s details from his identity card.
â€śI reached the accident spot around 1.45 am and then went to the Museum Police Station. At that time, neither the woman nor Sriram were at the station. Then I went to Medical College where Basheer had been shifted and came back to the police station by 3.30 am. I asked the police why the statement of the woman was not recorded if she was driving the car. The police response was that there were no women police personnel and hence the statement wasnâ€™t recorded. Sub Inspector Jayaprakash was at the police station. I called the DGP then, and by 3.30 am the police summoned Wafa after calling two women personnel from the nearby Cantonment Police Station,â€ť Aravind tells TNM.
Also a medical graduate, Sriram first told police that he was a doctor.
â€śWhen I went to the spot, a crime branch police personnel at the site told me that Sriram was driving the car, and it was Sriram who removed Basheerâ€™s body from the bike and placed it on the road. Sriram told the police that he was a doctor, it seems police personnel at the spot didnâ€™t recognise him, they recognised him when he gave his address later at the police station,â€ť Aravind says.
By the time Aravind came back from the Medical College, he learnt that Sriram was taken to the General Hospital by the police, who had not asked for his blood sample.
Aravind asserts that one of the prime accusations against the police is that they allowed Sriram to leave the General Hospital by himself even when he was under police custody. Though Sriram was asked to go to the government medical college, he went to KIMS, one of the biggest private hospitals in the city. KIMS is located just 5 km from the General Hospital. According to Aravind, Sriram left the General Hospital by 2 am but reached KIMS only at 3.30 am.
Aravind also claims the police are yet to check the CCTV visuals near Raj Bhavan. The spot where the accident took place is a prime location in the city, within a 1-km radius of the Chief Ministerâ€™s official residence and Raj Bhavan, the governorâ€™s residence.
City Police Commissioner Dinendra Kashyap, however, remained tightlipped. When asked about the grave lapse by the police in taking Sriramâ€™s blood sample more than 9 hours after the incident, the Commissioner said that all aspects were being investigated.
The Commissioner had maintained that they could not take blood samples as Sriram had not given consent. However, the law clearly gives the police the mandate to do that per Section 204 (2) (b) of the Motor Vehicles Act, which states that if the person having been required, whether at the hospital or elsewhere, to provide a specimen of breath for a breath test, has refused, omitted or failed to do so, a police officer can take blood sample if he or she has reasonable cause to suspect the accused of having alcohol in the blood.
The blood samples were drawn after about 9 hours following the accident, reportedly at KIMS, after questions on the police investigation were raised and widely reported in the media.
Sriram has been under remand at KIMS. After pressure from the journalist community, he is to be shifted to the Medical College later on Sunday.
Meanwhile, participating at an event at the police academy in Thrissur, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that everyone is equal before the law and that action would be taken whoever committed a crime. Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala urged the government to suspend the IAS officer from service. He had also demanded that KIMS must issue a medical bulletin on Sriramâ€™s condition and shift him to the Medical College, if needed, based on the bulletin.