Sriram Venkataraman is probably already off the hook, though it’s certain that a car that the celebrated Kerala IAS officer was driving killed a young journalist last week. Eyewitnesses to the midnight accident in Thiruvananthapuram and a woman who was with him in the car claimed he was drunk at the time. The police booked him for drunk driving, but they also made sure the officer does not have to answer to the stringent charge. They let more than nine hours lapse before collecting his blood sample for tests.
And so there was no surprise when the tests found no trace of alcohol. Not only that, the whole investigation seemed doctored to help the young officer who is a qualified doctor himself. As a result, Sriram was granted bail and will now most probably face a lesser charge of negligence.
So, the question is not whether Sriram will get away without punishment for killing while driving drunk, but who helped him get away and why. The state government seems to have suddenly woken up to the denial of justice in the case and wants Sriram prosecuted under Section 304 (II) for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. Too little too late, one must say.
It must know that the courts need evidence. And evidence, it doesn’t have. The Kerala High Court, while hearing the government’s appeal against the granting of bail to Sriram, questioned the delay in conducting tests. “Do you want him (Sriram) to supply the evidence? It’s the duty of the police to take action as per law,” it said. The government’s concern about the dilution of the case seems misplaced. It’s unimaginable that police officers at a station-level would have acted on their own to help the accused in such a high-profile case.
The plot to save Sriram was most probably scripted at a higher level. It must be noted here that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan himself handles the Home portfolio. So, the lapse is all the more embarrassing for the government. It must conduct a thorough probe and expose those who connived to help the officer. It must also make efforts to ensure that he gets the punishment he deserves.