Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala minister Dr MK Muneer was traveling in an SUV when it hit a man riding a scooter. Dr Muneer rushed the victim, a college professor, to the nearest hospital, where he died on Tuesday.
The accident has triggered a controversy because Mr Muneer was using a white Range Rover that is registered in the name of a businessman, but bore license plates proclaiming it a government vehicle. The car used the lal batti or red beacon used to indicate a VIP is on the move and must get right of way.
Government officials in-charge of protocols in Kerala have confirmed to NDTV that ministers are allowed to use the red beacons, VIP number plates on private vehicles being used as their official vehicles temporarily, in case their state owned vehicles are not in good condition.
"My vehicle broke down. And I was on my way to Calicut. This friend's vehicle was going to the same district, that's how I used it. I informed the transport minister too. I don't fancy very expensive cars. I don't own one either. I am very upset about the accident and have spoken to the family," Dr Muneer told NDTV.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy defending his minister, said, "There is nothing wrong with using private vehicles. Many times, we use (a) taxi with government number plates while in transit. The car belongs to a person from his own party."
The industrialist who registered as the owner of the car is a member of Dr Muneer's party, the Muslim League, which is a member of the coalition government.
A police case has been registered against the minister's driver who was reportedly not speeding when he hit Professor Shashi Kumar. The driver has been booked for rash and negligent driving. After moving the college lecturer to hospital, Dr Muneer used another car to continue with his journey. The SUV, a Land Rover, is police custody.
The state has decided to give Rs 5 lakh to the wife and two children of the deceased as compensation.
The cremation is scheduled for 3 pm tomorrow in Kayankulam, Kerala.