Alappuzha: Sriram Venkitaraman, the IAS officer accused of causing the death of a journalist in a drink drive case, assumed the office of Alappuzha district collector on Tuesday amid protest by Youth Congress activists.
Venkitaraman took charge from his wife Dr Renu Raj who has been appointed Ernakulam district collector.
Youth Congress activists waved black flags at Venkitaraman as his car entered the collectorate premises. A large posse of police was deployed there anticipating protest. The protesters were arrested and removed from the scene.
Opposition Congress has slammed the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front government's decision to appoint Venkitaraman to the crucial post even as the case against him is pending before a court. AICC general secretary (organisation) and former Alappuzha MP K C Venugopal said that posting Venkataraman who is a "tainted" officer in a district like Alappuzha was indeed disappointing.
Senior Congress leader and former Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala has also opposed the appointment of Venkitaraman as Alappuzha district collector.
Venkitaraman is the first accused in the controversial drunken driving accident that caused the death of journalist K M Basheer on August 3, 2019. Basheer was run over by a car allegedly driven by Sriram at high speed in an inebriated state, near Museum Junction in Thiruvananthapuram. The accident and the botched probe that followed had resulted in a huge controversy. He was placed under suspension by the State government then.
However, Venkitaraman was reinstated into service by the government in March 2020 and made the Joint Secretary in the Department of Health and Social Justice, much to the chagrin of the public. He was granted bail in the case by the First Class Magistrate Court in October 2020.