A committee headed by Kerala Chief Secretary Tom Jose has recommended taking back IAS officer Sriram Venkitaraman into service. The IAS officer was on suspension as he is accused of hitting and killing Kerala journalist KM Basheer in a road accident on August 3, 2019. He was also accused of being in an inebriated state when driving the car.
The recommendation to allow Sriram to rejoin the IAS service was made as his six-month suspension period is coming to an end. Sriram was placed on suspension on August 5, and the suspension was later extended by two more months in October.
It has also been six months since 35-year-old Basheer, the Thiruvananthapuram Bureau Chief of Malayalam daily 'Siraj', was killed in the road accident, yet no chargesheet has been filed in the case. According to Asianet, the recommendation was made also due to the absence of a chargesheet. In 2015, the Supreme Court had held that the suspension of a government employee is not valid beyond 90 days unless a chargesheet has been filed within that period.
Sriram, who was the Survey Director then, was arrested on August 3, but 17 hours after the incident. The Kerala police was criticised for causing a delay in taking the IAS officer to hospital to get his blood samples and check the alcohol content in his body, thus destroying crucial evidence in the case.
There was also a delay in filing the first information report (FIR). He was booked under sections 279 (rash driving or riding on a publi way) and 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
A Special Investigation Team (SIT) was formed. The SIT also tried to place the blame on the complainant Saifudeen Haji, director of Siraj newspaper. The police claimed that he agreed to give his statement only after the blood sample of the second accused Wafa, who was also in the car at the time of the accident, was taken.
Despite all of this, a chargesheet in the journalist’s death case has not been filed yet.
In the wee hours of August 3, Basheer had halted his two-wheeler on the side of the road when the car, allegedly driven by Sriram, rammed into the bike. Multiple eyewitnesses in the area said they saw Sriram getting out from the driver’s seat, in an inebriated state.
Sriram had claimed in his explanation letter to the Chief Secretary that he was not driving the car when the accident took place.