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HC refuses stay on magistrate court order granting bail to Sreeram Venkitaraman


Kochi: The Kerala High Court on Wednesday refused to stay a magistrate court order granting bail to suspended IAS officer Sriram Venkitaraman, who was arrested for alleged drunken driving that caused the death of a journalist.

Justice Raja Vijayaraghavan issued a notice to Venkitaraman on an appeal by the Kerala government, seeking to cancel the bail granted to him by the Judicial First Class magistrate court at Thiruvananthapuram.

The case will be heard again on Friday.

The magistrate court on Tuesday had granted bail to Venkitaraman, now being treated at the Government Medical College Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram, after perusing his blood report samples, which was found negative for alcohol content and the case diary of police.

In its appeal, the state government alleged that 32-year-old Venkitaraman misled police and tried to destroy evidence of his alcohol consumption.

The government contended that the investigation was at a preliminary stage and granting bail at this juncture in a serious offence of this nature has prejudiced the probe.

The bail was granted without considering the gravity of the offence and also that there were sufficient ingredients and material to constitute an offence under Section 304 (Part II) of the Indian Penal Code, it said.

The court sought an explanation from police on why they failed to collect the medical evidence from the accused on time and noted that the blood sample of Venkitaraman was collected nine hours after the incident.

It also sought to know the reasons for seeking custody of a person currently under treatment at a hospital.

The government's appeal was filed by the assistant commissioner of police, narcotic cell, Thiruvananthapuram.

The government alleged that the magistrate court also failed to appreciate that Venkitaraman is a qualified doctor and a highly influential Kerala cadre Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer.

Narrating the sequence of events on the night of the accident, the government said that immediately after the incident, he misled police by giving a false statement that the vehicle was driven by his friend Wafa, the registered owner.

Only subsequently during the investigation it was revealed that the person who drove the car was Venkitaraman himself.

He informed police and the doctor at the General Hospital, who examined him at 2.07 am on August 3, that he has pain and suspects that he had an internal injury, the government said.

The doctor advised him to consult a surgeon and referred him to the Medical College Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram.

When he was examined at the General Hospital, the doctor positively detected the smell of alcohol .

Venkitaraman, instead of going to the Medical College Hospital, got himself admitted to the private KIMS hospital without informing police and underwent treatment there as an inpatient, the government said.

Police came to know about this after attending to the deceased by 9.45 am, took a doctor from the General hospital to KIMS, collected his blood samples and got it examined.

The accused, who is well aware of the medical and legal aspects, had deliberately misled police and in collusion with doctors of the KIMS hospital, tried to destroy the evidence of his alcohol consumption, the government said.

The IAS officer was arrested on August 3, hours after the luxury car driven by him in an alleged inebriated condition while returning from a private party, knocked down journalist K Muhammed Basheer, killing him on the spot.

Venkitaraman was later remanded to 14 days judicial custody.

The government had on Monday suspended the officer, who was serving as the survey director.

A Special Investigation Team (SIT) had also been constituted to probe the case.

Basheer, 35, Thiruvananthapuram Bureau Chief of Malayalam daily "Siraj", was on his home from work when the incident took place at around 1.00 am on Saturday.

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