IAS officer Sriram Venkitaraman
IAS officer Sriram Venkitaraman

Culpable Homicide Not Amounting To Murder Charge Against Kerala IAS Officer

The Lede gets hold of the charge sheet filed by police against the IAS officer who had killed a journalist in August 2019 in a drunken driving incident

Rejimon Kuttappan

Rejimon Kuttappan

IAS officer Sriram Venkitaraman lied to witnesses and police officials at the crime spot, misled medics, disobeyed government medic’s referral letter instructions and delayed medical tests at a private hospital, a charge sheet filed by police in the court on Friday reveals.

Last year on August 03 at around 1 am, KM Basheer, bureau chief of Malayalam news daily Siraj, was mowed down by a Volkswagen car reportedly by Sriram in Thiruvananthapuram.

Journalist KM Basheer who was killed in the accident
Journalist KM Basheer who was killed in the accident

The incident happened a stone’s throw away distance from Museum Police station in the heart of the city and Basheer had suffered 44 injuries, both internal and external. Within hours, he succumbed to his injuries.

The charge sheet in possession with The Lede reveals that police have charged Sriram with IPC Sections 304 and 201.

Section 304 is a non-bailable offence of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and an act by which the death is caused is done with or without the intention of causing death. It is in the fresh charge sheet that Section 304 is included after removing the bailable 304 (A).

According to the police charge sheet, the speed limit on the crime scene road is 50 kmph.

“The CCTV visuals obtained from nearby institutions and statements of witnesses at the crime scene state that the car reportedly drove by Sriram was over speeding,” the charge sheet reads.

Section 183 of the Motor Vehicle Act for driving a vehicle at excessive speed has been filed by police in the charge sheet. Scientific findings by motor vehicle department officials and automobile department heads reveal that the car was at 100 kmph speed when it hit Basheer’s bike. After hitting Basheer’s bike, the car pushed the bike some 24.5 meters and crashed on the wall.

The crash scene
The crash scene

IPC Section 201 has been filed too for the offence of causing disappearance of evidence, or giving false information to protect the offender.

Based on witnesses and medics, police state in the charge sheet that Sriram was behind the wheel and Wafa Firoze, second accused and his friend, who owns the car, was sitting on the passenger seat.

Witnesses’ statements recorded in the charge sheet reveal that after mowing down Basheer, Sriram stepped out from the driver seat of the car.

A witness statement reads that Sriram was drunk. Based on the statements from the witnesses and also government general hospital medic who reported a strong smell of alcohol while treating Sriram, police have filed Section 185 of the Motor Vehicle Act too.

Section 185 of Motor Vehicle Act prescribes that whoever while driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle has in his blood alcohol exceeding 30 mg per 100 ml of blood detected in a test by a breath analyser shall be punished with imprisonment of six months or with fine or both.

Additionally, Sriram has also been charged with Section 3 in The Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act as to when the car reportedly drove by him had hit Basheer, the wall and lamp post of a government office were also damaged.

The charge sheet reveals that Sriram had told the police officials that he was not driving the car and it was Wafa, his friend, who was driving the car. However, witnesses have told police that Sriram stepped out from the driver seat.

According to the charge sheet, even though Sriram didn’t suffer any injuries, he insisted the police shift him to the hospital.

Upon his request, the police shifted him to the general hospital, where Rakesh S, a medic on duty, who attended him felt the strong presence of alcohol smell and referred him to government medical college.

The medic stating the strong presence of alcohol smell has been given as a statement by Museum Police Station officer in charge in the charge sheet.

Sriram disobeyed the general hospital medic, called his friend and headed to KIMS private hospital duping the police.

Based on the statements from medics who were then at KIMS hospital, the charge sheet reveals that Sriram lied to them too.

Sriram deliberately hid Basheer being injured in the accident caused by him and told the medics that his car had hit a wall. He had also told the medics that he was a co-passenger.

The charge sheet also reveals that when medics at casualty instructed a nurse to collect Sriram’s blood samples for tests, he denied permission and waited till the alcohol level came down in the blood.

The charge sheet has quoted the duty nurse statement in the medical report that Sriram has denied permission to collect blood samples for tests.

Charges against Wafa are for lending her car to Sriram who was drunk and was over speeding. She has been charged with MV Act Section 188.

Section 188 is punishment for whoever abets the commission of an offence under section 184 or section 185 or section 186 shall be punishable with the punishment provided for the offence.

Wafa has also stated that it was Sriram who was driving the car when the accident happened.

Thiruvananthapuram Medical College Neurologist Anilkumar P has stated that Sriram had suffered injuries in which a person on the driver seat could suffer, which again proves that Sriram was driving the car.

There are 100 witness statements in the 66-page charge sheet which has 84 supporting documents and 72 physical pieces of evidence.

Sriram was suspended from service after the incident for six months. And recently, Kerala chief secretary had issued an order to reinstate Sriram into service. However, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan turned down the recommendation of chief secretary Tom Jose to have the IAS officer back on duty.

Sriram had denied all claims of witnesses who said that he was drunk at the time of the accident.

The IAS officer had grabbed headlines for his hard work and diligence in his job. Sriram had been working against illegal encroachments and towards the reclamation of properties, and the government was allegedly upset with this. This also led to his transfer, but there were reports that he was assigned a new role as part of a promotion.

The Lede