Journalist Basheer’s death: Hearing on chargesheet to begin on November 1

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KM Basheer, Sriram Venkitaraman, Wafa Firoz | Photo: Mathrubhumi

Thiruvananthapuram: The Thiruvananthapuram District Sessions Court in its order on Monday urged the prosecution and the accused in KM Basheer’s case to start hearing on the chargesheet on November 1.

Two years have passed since the death of journalist K M Basheer (35) in the wee hours on August 4 after a speeding car, reportedly driven by high-profile IAS officer Sriram Venkitaraman, rammed into his vehicle.

The first accused Sriram Venkitaraman and second accused Wafa Firoz have not appeared before the court on Monday. The counsel pleaded for the accused informed the court that they received the documents submitted before the court as evidences during the trial. The accused were directed to appear before the court on November 1. The copy of the chargesheet was given to the accused on February 24, 2020 by Judicial First Class Magistrate Court. On August 9 Sriram Venkitaraman and Wafa Firoz appeared before the court as a usual court proceeding to read the charge sheet.

On the night of August 3, Sriram Venkitaraman and his friend Wafa Firoz were reportedly coming back from Cowdiar after attending a party. Basheer was the bureau chief of Siraj daily in Thiruvananthapuram. Coming back from duty, he was talking on the phone at the Museum Junction right outside the Public Office Complex, after parking his two-wheeler just beside the road. A speeding car at 98 kilometres per hour rammed into him and he was brought dead at Thiruvananthapuram Medical College. Wafa was allowed to leave in an auto-rickshaw at the spot and Sriram was taken to the General Hospital in Vanchiyoor. Sriram reportedly smelled alcohol at the hospital but he was not tested for alcohol in blood. This aroused suspicions about a foul play to undermine the case.

The case was initially investigated by Museum police and their apathy in collecting evidence weakened the case. Police did not collect CCTV footage and record the statements of eyewitnesses. The Judicial First Class Magistrate Court-3 granted Sriram bail on August 5 in the absence of strong evidence. It irked the public and they were up in arms against the lacklustre attitude of police. Compelled by this, the government formed a team to investigate the crime and also appointed Sheen Tharayil, DYSP Crime Branch, as its head on August 7. After six days, Sheen Tharayil was replaced by P Shanavas, Crime Branch SP, owing to the pressure to appoint a high ranking officer to head the team.

The new investigation team found five CCTV footages and recorded the statements of eye-witnesses. The section 304 of IPC (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) in the FIR was replaced with IPC 303 for murder. In addition, sections 201 of IPC (causing disappearance of evidence of the offence, giving false information to screen offender, driving dangerously), 185 (driving by drunken person) and 188 (punishment for offences under Motor Vehicle Act) were also added.

The team submitted the charge sheet at the Judicial First Class Magistrate Court-3 in February 2020 holding Sriram and Wafa respectively the first and second accused. The accused in the case were asked to appear before the court for the charge sheet to be read. Sriram evaded court proceedings many times by citing various reasons. It took one year for the court to get the acknowledgement of the accused in approving the charge sheet.The first wave of Covid-19 too delayed the process.

In July 2020, the duo appeared before the court. After objecting and countering the charges a number of times, Sriram finally acknowledged the charge sheet. The court then transferred the case to Thiruvananthapuram District Sessions Court as the new IPC section 303 took the case out of the jurisdiction of judicial court.

In the sessions court, the second wave of covid came again as a villain and the court proceedings were delayed further. As the trial gets rolling the friends and relatives of Basheer fervently hope that justice shall be delivered eventually.

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