Questions raised after IAS officer Sriram Venkitaraman, accused in journo’s death made poll observer

Questions raised after IAS officer Sriram Venkitaraman, accused in journo’s death made poll observer

The complaint from Siraj to the Election Commission pointed out that the poll body had released a code of conduct for election officials in 2019.

Sriram Venkitaraman, a Kerala cadre IAS officer, was in a soup in August 2019 after he was involved in a car accident that left a journalist dead.

K.M. Basheer, the Thiruvananthapuram bureau chief of Malayalam daily Siraj, died in hospital from his injuries after his motorcycle was hit by a car in which Venkitaraman and his female friend, Wafia Firoz, were travelling. Some reports claimed Venkitaraman was inebriated and driving the vehicle at the time of the accident.

Venkitaraman, a 2013 batch IAS officer, was placed under suspension following the incident. Venkitaraman was reinstated to service in March 2020 as a joint secretary in the Department of Health and Social Justice. Venkitaraman has been charged with murder, destruction of evidence and other crimes in the death of Basheer.

On Monday, Siraj approached the Election Commission after Venkitaraman was named as a poll observer for the coming Assembly polls in Tamil Nadu. According to The New Indian Express, Venkitaraman has been appointed as observer in the constituencies of Thiru.vi.ka Nagar and Egmore.

The complaint from Siraj to the Election Commission pointed out that the poll body had released a code of conduct for election officials in 2019. These rules stated that officials selected for election duty should not be involved in any ongoing criminal case. Siraj pointed out to the Election Commission Sriram is the first accused in the drunk driving case.

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The New Indian Express reported Election Commission rules mandated that officials give an affidavit stating "they do not have any criminal cases pending against them nor their relatives are contesting elections”. “The chief secretaries of the states recommend officers of spotless character for poll duties. But in Sriram’s case, that procedure has been flouted,” said the Siraj management.

Siraj has also complained to Kerala Chief Electoral Officer Teeka Ram Meena and Chief Secretary V.P. Joy.

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