THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In what could be termed as a major failure on the part of the prosecution in convincing the court, IAS officer Sriram Venkataraman, who was accused of fatally knocking down a journalist allegedly in an inebriated condition here last week, was granted bail by the Judicial First Class Magistrate III on Tuesday. On Saturday, Sriram was remanded to 14-day judicial custody after his speeding car rammed a motorcycle near Museum Junction, killing journalist K M Basheer.
The prosecution is slated to file an appeal against the magistrate’s bail order following Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s direction. Bail was granted after the prosecution failed to produce evidence proving that Sriram was drunk at the time of the accident and after the charges under Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), which is a non-bailable offence, were replaced with Section 304A (causing death by negligence).
Prosecution produced only statements of witnesses. The court said these alone would not stand and prosecution should produce scientific evidence to prove that Sriram was drunk.While the prosecution challenged Sriram’s bail application, the IAS officer’s counsel argued that since the chemical examiner’s report handed over to the police mentioned the absence of concentration of alcohol in his blood sample, non-bailable sections invoked against him should be dropped. The counsel also argued that Section 304, earlier invoked against him, was purely on the basis of pressure from the media and political higher-ups.
Stating that drunken driving charges levelled against Sriram would not stand in the light of blood sample result turning negative, he pleaded the court to take notice of the good reputation of the officer and that he had even helped to take the victim to hospital. He also argued that media and political parties were trying to tarnish Sriram’s image. The counsel also produced the medical report stating that the officer’s health condition was poor.
Meanwhile, the prosecution argued that Section 304 was non-bailable and granting bail to the accused would send a wrong message to society. It also pointed out that doctors who attended to him noted that he smelt of alcohol when he was brought to General Hospital. There was also substantial evidence to prove the car was moving at high speed and hit the victim from the rear, confirming that the officer’s fault clearly led to the fatal accident. Whether he was drunk or not, he drove the car dangerously, which itself is a grave offence to not grant him bail, argued the prosecution.
Medical board to take a call today
The five-member medical board formed by Thiruvananthapuram GMCH for assessing the health condition of IAS officer Sriram Venkataraman will take a call on whether the officer should be discharged or continue his treatment on Wednesday. The officer who is currently admitted to the Trauma ICU of the multi-speciality block is said to be suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder and spinal cord injury. The first meeting of the board on Monday had decided to shift the officer from the cell ward to ICU.
“The board was expected to meet on Tuesday, but decided to meet on Wednesday as we are awaiting a few test reults,” said a board member. The board comprises Surgery Department head Dr Abdul Latheef, Neurosurgery Department head Dr Anil Peethambaran, Ortho Department head Dr Sajid Hussain, hospital Superintendent Dr M S Sharmad and RMO Dr Mohan Roy.
‘Strict action if lapses proved’
Following allegations of high-level interference to make police go soft on Sriram, in the accident case, state police chief Loknath Behera issued a stern message saying, “An investigation is being carried out and if it finds that procedures haven’t been followed, then the person, whoever he/she is, will be punished” as per departmental norms. “If the inquiry proves that a particular officer has been influenced by someone, then we’ll take action as per law,” Behera told Express. A special team led by ADGP (Law and Order) Sheikh Darwesh Sahib launched a probe on Monday to ascertain the same.