Kerala mayor-KSRTC driver row: Police verifies allegations against KSRTC driver

A controversy erupted on Sunday, 28 April, when Thiruvananthapuram city Mayor Arya Rajendran allegedly blocked a state-run passenger bus in the city for not giving way to her private car.

BySouth First Desk

Published May 27, 2024 | 7:47 PM Updated May 27, 2024 | 7:48 PM

Mayor Arya Rajendran and MLA Sachin Dev.

In a significant development in the ongoing investigation into the Thiruvananthapuram city mayor-KSRTC driver controversy, police have recreated the scene and found that Mayor Arya Rajendran’s complaint holds truth.

The incident, which took place on the night of 27 April, involved a heated altercation between Arya Rajendran, Mayor of Thiruvananthapuram City Corporation, her husband Sachin Dev MLA, and a Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) Super-Fast driver HL Yadu at Thiruvananthapuram’s Palayam Saphalyam Complex Junction  at Palayam junction.

The police reconstruction of the incident revealed that the mayor, who was seated in the back seat of her car, could indeed have seen the derogatory gesture made by the KSRTC driver, as she had alleged.

This crucial detail corroborated her initial claims about the driver’s inappropriate behaviour. The investigation also disproved MLA Sachin Dev’s assertion that he had not entered the bus.

Eyewitness testimonies and a document maintained by the bus conductor confirmed his presence on the bus, contradicting his previous statement.

Also Read: Kerala Mayor row: Road rage mystery deepens; Will missing footage decide the fate?

Road rage incident turning into a high-profile row

A seemingly ordinary incident of road rage snowballed into a controversy that sparked statewide debate. The controversy erupted on Sunday, 28 April, when the mayor allegedly blocked a state-run passenger bus in the city for not giving way to her private car.

Video footage aired by news channels showed Arya and her co-passengers in the car engaging in heated arguments with the bus driver after blocking the bus at Palayam junction on Saturday, 27 April.

Eyewitnesses reported that amidst the chaotic scene, tempers flared, with both parties engaged in a verbal duel over the alleged disregard for road etiquette. The confrontation attracted the attention of bystanders and soon garnered widespread coverage across various media platforms.

While Arya complained of the reckless driving of the bus driver as well as his misbehaviour, Yadu complained that the car had tried to overtake from the wrong side. He also added that the mayor as well as the MLA obstructed the bus and forced passengers to get off.

They also allegedly coerced a man into deleting a video of the incident from his mobile phone, the driver alleged. Yadu stated that he was not aware that Rajendran was the mayor and Sachin Dev was the MLA.

Also Read: Mayor Arya Rajendran, husband MLA Sachin Dev booked over spat with KSRTC driver

Yadu’s complaint against the mayor

Yadu had filed a complaint against Arya and Sachin for disrupting his official duty and forcibly stopping the bus midway. He also raised the complaint that Sachin threatened passengers and asked them to get out of the bus.

He said that police have refused to register a case lodged by him against the mayor for blocking the bus in the middle of the road and that the KSRTC authorities asked him not to report for duty.

The controversy intensified when reports emerged suggesting that the police had registered a case against Yadu that he misbehaved with her, solely based on Arya’s complaint, seemingly disregarding the driver’s account of the incident.

However, Yadu was released as the case was registered for a bailable offence, police said. This discrepancy sparked debates over fairness and impartiality, with many questioning the transparency of the investigation process.

Another twist came up as the police inquiring Mayor’s complaint couldn’t find the memory card from the CCTV camera on the bus.

A team of police personnel from the Cantonment station in Thiruvananthapuram examined the superfast bus parked at the KSRTC depot but failed to retrieve the memory card which was expected to be vital proof in the raging row. Following this, a theft case was registered.

Also Read: Youth Congress workers, KSRTC staff protest against Mayor Arya Rajendran

Mayor rejects allegations

Rejecting the allegations, Rajendran said that this was not an issue of giving way for her car, in which she and her family members were travelling.

She claimed they intervened when the bus was about to hit their car from behind. When she and her sister-in-law looked at the driver through the window panes on the back, he allegedly made sexually suggestive gestures at them and overtook their vehicle, Rajendran alleged.

She also said that the bus was not blocked, and she spoke to the driver when all vehicles were stopped at a red signal. The mayor further alleged that the driver shouted at them when they questioned his alleged misbehaviour.

She claimed that the driver was rash and negligent and they intervened after the bus was about to hit their car from behind.

As the video of a confrontation between Arya and Yadu became viral, a cyber-attack against both of them ensued. While the CPM and its youth wing DYFI alleged that Arya is facing cyber lynching, Yadu also complained the same.

On 30 April, Arya also made an emotional speech at the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation Council meeting. She then stated, “People often ask why women didn’t react to unpleasant things against them. But here I am, suffering because I reacted immediately.”

She further added in a broken voice, “I heard reports that I fabricated the whole thing. There are also reports that it was merely an issue of the bus not giving way and I blew up the whole thing. If you had checked the video, you would hear my brother asking the driver what gesture he showed.”

Later, the Mayor said that Yadu is a habitual offender and pointed out that action had been taken against him twice, in 2002 and in 2017. She also alleged that Yadu had consumed some narcotic substances during the confrontation.

In the case of Sachin, it was alleged that he entered the bus and threatened the bus passengers to get off from it. However, Sachin told the media that he had stepped into the footboard of the bus and never entered inside. He also dismissed the allegation that he threatened the passengers.

Also Read: Row over mayor blocking RTC bus; transport minister seeks report

Yadu approaches court

On 4 May, Yadu filed a petition before the Thiruvananthapuram Magistrate Court – III demanding an inquiry into disruption of duty and blocking the bus.

On 2 May, he also approached the Kerala State Human Rights Commission raising the issue that the police had not considered his complaint against the Mayor and the MLA.

Considering the same, the commission had directed the City Police Commissioner, Thiruvananthapuram, and KSRTC managing director to conduct an inquiry and submit a report within a week.

Commenting on the version of Sachin that he didn’t threaten or enter the bus and the conductor is aware of the same, Yadu said that the conductor is a DYFI activist.

“The conductor Subin is a DYFI activist. At the time of the incident, he was sitting in the front seat. But he told the police that he was sitting in the back seat. When the MLA entered the bus, he raised from his seat and offered it by saying Comrade, please sit. I suspect if the conductor has a role to play in the missing of the memory card,” Yadu told the media.

Following the row, Kerala police on Monday, 6 May, registered a case against the mayor, her MLA husband and three others, invoking non-bailable charges based on Yadu’s complaint.

The FIR was filed by the cantonment police after receiving directions from a city court.

The police have invoked various sections, including 353 (Assault or criminal force to deter a public servant from discharge of his duty), 447 (criminal trespass), 341 (wrongful restraint), 294 B (uttering obscene words), and 201 (tampering with evidence) of the Indian Penal Code.

According to the FIR, the accused had blocked the public transport, abused the driver and the passengers, and destroyed the memory card of the CCTV installed inside the bus.

(Edited by Shauqueen Mizaj, with PTI inputs)