Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala IAS officer Sriram Venkitaraman, whose reckless driving under the influence of alcohol killed a journalist in Thiruvanathapuram around 1am in the intervening night of Friday and Saturday, was remanded in judicial custody for 14 days.
The accident occurred near Museum junction in Kerala's capital city.
K M Basheer, a journalist with Malayalam newspaper, died on the spot because of the impact of the collision.
Sriram, who is injured, is being treated at a private hospital. His friend and car owner, Wafa Firoz, was with him when the accident occurred.
Police recorded Sriram's arrest at the hospital. Later, a magistrate remanded him in judicial custody.
Chronology of the accident
According to the police, Sriram invited Wafa to a party to celebrate his return to service at a Kowdiar flat around midnight on Friday. The young IAS officer had been on leave for over a year for higher studies at the Harvard University. The government appointed him as the director of the Survey and Land Records on Thursday.
Wafa came to the place in her Volkswagen car. However, she couldn't find the officer at his flat.
Wafa tried to contact him on his mobilephone, but all her attempts went in vain. Later, she drove around Vellayambalam-Kowdiar road twice until she found Sriram sitting on bench at a nearby park.
She stopped the car near a coffee shop opposite Raj Bhavan, after which Sriram took over.
According to the police, Sriram wanted to eat something from Palayam and took the wheels by himself.
While they were on their way to Palayam, the car rammed Basheer's bike at 12.55am on Saturday.
Sriram had initially said Wafa was behind the wheel.
According to Wafa's reported confession before a magistrate, Sriram attended a party and was under the influence of alcohol.
She also confirmed that Sriram was driving the vehicle from Kowdiar.
Who is Wafa Firoz?
Wafa, a Kollam resident, has been living in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates for many years. She works as a model. Police said Wafa knew Sriram for more than a year.
"I saw the speeding car at 12.45am," said Shafeeq, an accident witness. "Suddenly I stopped my vehicle. The car banged the ill-fated bike, throwing the rider off it. A man got off the driver's seat. Police arrived at the scene immediately and took the injured man to hospital in an ambulance," he said.
Another witness Jobi said Sriram looked drunk when he came out of the car. "I was returning from a movie," he said. "Sriram's legs were wobbly. He introduced himself as Sriram, a doctor, to the police. He told them Wafa drove the car," he said.
Jobi said that police heeded Sriram's request to let Wafa go. He then called a taxi and Wafa left the spot. Later, the police took Sriram and the car was towed away.
Basheer, a talented journalist
Basheer started his career as a local reporter of Siraaj. He worked as the newspaper's Malappuram staff reporter. He is survived by his wife Jaseela and two daughters.
The scribe, popularly known as 'KMB' among journalist circles, was on his way back home from the Thiruvananthapuram railway station, after a attending an official meeting in Kollam.
The Kerala Media Academy had recently honoured Basheer for his significant contributions in Kerala Assembly reporting. He was also the youngest journalist to be honoured in the event.
Govt assures tough action
Transport Minister A K Saseendran has assured that the license of the person who drove the car will be cancelled with immediate effect.
The government was committed to provide a flawless investigation in the case, he said.
The Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) demanded a proper and truthful investigation into the accident.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala condoled Basheer's demise.
Sriram's fall from grace
A second rank holder in the 2013 Civil Services exam, Sriram became a darling of the media for taking a strong stand against encroachers on government land at Munnar in Idukki district in 2017.
He was serving as the Devikulam sub-collector then. He courted controversy for dismantling a 30-feet metal cross, put up under the garb of 'spiritual tourism' at Papathychola in Munnar, as part of an anti-encroachment drive.