Suspended IAS officer Sriram Venkitaraman, accused of driving a car in an inebriated condition and fatally knocking down a journalist on August 3 , 2019,
has been reinstated as Joint secretary in the health department, by the Kerala government.
Last year, 35-year-old KM Basheer, bureau chief of the Malayali daily Siraj, was returning home on his moterbike at around 12.45 am when the car allegedly driven by Venkitaraman knocked him down in the high security zone area of the state capital where he died on the spot.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, told reporters on Monday, “the state government will not back anyone who had done any wrong even if he was government officer. The case is before a court now, adding there was no question of protecting wrongdoers.”
News agency PTI quoted official sources as saying that the IAS officer Venkitaraman’s suspension had been extended twice. He been appointed as the “joint secretary” with the health department.
The journalist fraternity of Kerala has expressed their protest on the move and the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) has sought withdrawal of the decision.
“The whole society knows how Venkitaraman tried to wriggle out of the case soon after the accident. Basheer”s death was due to drunken driving of a responsible officer of the state government,” KUWJ said.
A committee headed by Chief Secretary Tom Jose had earlier recommended revoking his suspension after pointing out that the police had not filed the charge sheet even after six months since the accident.
The police, later on February 1, filed the charge sheet before the Chief Judicial Magistrate’s Court. The Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) has sought withdrawal of the decision.
The killed journalist Basheer’s family also expressed anguish over the decision. “The officer claimed that he had retrograde amnesia, a type of memory loss caused by damage to the memory-storage areas of the brain following a serious injury, stroke, trauma, thiamine deficiency, brain disease or some other serious illness (following the accident), but now he has been appointed to the health ministry itself. This is to derail the investigation,” K Abdur Rahuman, Basheer’s brother,said while talking to the journalists.