- K Muhammed Basheer, 35, killed after car rammed his bike
- Crash took place in the heart of Thiruvananthapuram late Saturday night
- Officer Sriram Venkataraman first refused to give blood for test: sources
A journalist was killed in a road accident in Kerala's capital Thiruvananthapuram late last night when a car driven allegedly by an IAS officer rammed his motorcycle, killing him on the spot. The IAS officer, Sreeram Venkitaraman, has been arrested.
K Muhammed Basheer, 35, was the Thiruvananthapuram bureau chief of Malayalam daily Siraj. The incident took place at around 1 am in the heart of the city when he was returning home from work, the police said.
Apart from Mr Venkitaraman, a woman was also in the blue Volkswagen, the police said. "There were conflicting statements. We have now confirmed from independent witnesses that Sreeram Venkitaraman was driving the vehicle," Thiruvananthapuram police chief Dhinendra Kashyap told news agency PTI.
As allegations of conspiracy for a cover-up surfaced, police sources confirmed that Sriram Venkataraman, 33, initially refused to give his blood sample for testing. "When someone refuses to give blood sample, there are legal procedures that need to be initiated, which include arrest, and the blood to be taken by a government doctor. But eventually, the man agreed for his blood sample to be collected. He had certainly consumed alcohol, because the initial medical report states of smell of liquor," a police source told NDTV.
The officer's blood sample was taken for testing at around 10 am on Saturday.
"I was returning after watching a movie. At around 1 am, I saw a car bang into the wall. Initially I didn't see anything else. Then I saw a bike rammed into the wall. Eventually, I saw a man exit the driver's seat," Joby G, an eyewitness, told NDTV. His statement has been taken by the police.
Images from the accident site - near the government museum on Vellayambalam Road - showed the motorcycle upside down against a compound wall and the car badly damaged in the front.
Parts of the motorcycle and the car were strewn around and Mr Basheer's slippers and some others were found metres away from the accident spot. Blood stains were seen on the road.
Cases of rash driving and "punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder" have been registered.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala and the minister for temple bodies Kadakkampally Surendran were among those who expressed grief at the death of the journalist.
Transport Minister AK Saseendran said IAS officers should set an example for others by following rules and regulations strictly. Steps would be taken to cancel the driving license of the accused, he told reporters.
Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) has demanded a fair investigation and has written to the Chief Minister and the Kerala police chief.
Mr Basheer has a wife and two children.
Mr Venkitaraman, also a Medical doctor and Fullbright Fellow, had recently returned to the state after completing higher studies abroad. His friend who accompanied him owned the Volkswagen sedan. In 2017, when Mr Venkitaraman was a sub collector, he had hit out hard against illegal constructions in Idukki district.
(With inputs from PTI)