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    Journalist’s death in IAS officer’s drunken driving; SIT constituted

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    Journalist’s death in IAS officer’s drunken driving; SIT constituted
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    Thiruvananthapuram: A special investigation team is formed by the government, two days after IAS officer Sriram Venkitaraman’s arrest for alleged drunken driving that caused the death of a journalist here.

    The 33-year old officer, now in judicial remand, was under observation at the Intensive Care Unit of the Government Medical College Hospital here even as police said the result of his blood test was negative for alcohol trace.

    The government, which has asserted it would not protect any official who violated law, appointed the Special Investigation Team (SIT), headed by ADGP Sheikh Darvesh Sahib, to probe the case against the IAS officer.

    The team will include personnel from the Crime branch and the police, a statement issued by the state police chief said.

    Venkitaraman was arrested on Aug 3 several hours after the luxury car driven by him while returning from a private party hit 35-year old K Muhammed Basheer, Thiruvananthapuram Bureau Chief of Malayalam daily "Siraj", killing him on the spot.

    It triggered an outrage with demands for suspension and resignation of the IAS officer amid allegations that he was trying to bail himself out of the case using his position.

    Venkitaraman, a doctor himself, allowed police to collect his blood sample for examination nine hours after the mishap and after getting himself admitted to a posh private hospital here.

    The investigating officer told PTI on Monday that "The result of the blood test has come out negative (for alcohol trace)."

    A five-member medical board, constituted to evaluate the health condition of the accused, decided to keep him under observation at the ICU.

    It also directed conduct of some more examinations on him, a medical college hospital statement said.

    Though Venkitaraman was remanded to 14 days judicial custody on Saturday, he continued to remain in the private KIMS Hospital till Sunday night.

    He was shifted to the Medical college hospital after Basheer's family and media personnel protested over the "five star treatment" being given to him at the KIMS though he was a remand prisoner.

    Meanwhile, state Industries Minister E P Jayarajan on Monday described Venkitaraman as a "disgrace" to the civil service and wanted him to resign on his own.

    "The government is not going to protect any culprits. We will not spare those who have attempted to help the accused.

    The IAS officer is a disgrace to the profession. He must accept his mistake and resign from the post," he said.

    He was speaking at a condolence meeting organised by the media fraternity here in remembrance of Basheer.

    State Power Minister M M Mani and Health minister, K K Shylaja, also said the the guilty will neither be protected nor given any special consideration.

    In the Judicial First Class Magistrate court, the bail application of the officer as well as the police plea seeking his custody came up for hearing when the prosecution opposed the relief to the accused.

    In his bail plea, the IAS officer claimed he had not committed any crime and alleged the matter was exaggerated by the media.

    Kerala Union of Working Journalists demanded that the government dismiss Venkitaraman from service and pay a compensation of Rs 50 lakh to Basheer's family.

    His wife should be given government job, the KUWJ said adding it had apprehensions about "go slow" tactics in the case.

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