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IPS officer D. Roopa ‘vindicated’ as probe panel finds Sasikala treated like star at jail

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IPS officer D. Roopa had alleged in 2017 that late Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa’s aide Sasikala had received special treatment at jail.

Bengaluru: For Indian Police Service (IPS) officer D. Roopa Moudgil, it’s a moment of vindication.

Roopa had alleged two years ago that late Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa’s aide V.K. Sasikala, in jail after a disproportionate assets conviction, had struck a deal with officials at a Karnataka prison for preferential treatment.

A one-man panel, set up by the state’s erstwhile Siddaramaiah government, upheld her findings in its report — submitted in 2017 but whose contents have only come to light now— listing a series of privileges Sasikala received as an inmate of the Parappana Agrahara central prison.

“I only hope the Anti-Corruption Bureau probes the exchange of money… in detail,” Roopa told The Print.

‘A-class convict’

In 2017, during her tenure as deputy inspector general of police (prisons), Roopa, Karnataka’s first woman IPS officer, had sent a report to her senior, director general of police (prisons) H.N. Sathyanarayana Rao, alleging that Sasikala was being treated like an A-class convict (political prisoner) despite there being no such orders.

She said a special kitchen had been set up on the prison premises for Sasikala, who was allowed to entertain visitors for hours. There was “talk”, Roopa added, that senior jail officials had accepted Rs 2 crore as bribe to facilitate her preferential treatment.

In her two-part report, Roopa had supported her claims with photographs, CCTV images and statements from inmates.

Even as the government took cognisance of her allegations and set up a panel under IAS officer Vinay Kumar (Retd), Roopa was transferred as commissioner for traffic and road safety. Rao, who had reportedly termed Roopa’s allegations “baseless”, was sent on leave.

The decision, Siddaramaiah had said at the time, was triggered by the duo’s statements to the media.

Also read: Karnataka govt launches ACB probe into Sasikala prison bribery charges

Special facilities

According to Kumar’s 22-page report, kept confidential so far, Sasikala enjoyed a separate corridor for herself, with separate cooking facilities arranged for her, besides special arrangements for those visiting her in jail.

“… The video recordings and photographs appended with this report show that special facility of wearing personal clothing and of interview with her visitors in the first-floor administrative block has been continued for Mrs Sasikala,” the report stated.

According to CCTV footage, people were allowed to visit Sasikala for several hours, in complete violation of rules.

“The CCTV footage… shows Sasikala and Ilavarasi (her sister-in-law and fellow convict) dressed in their personal clothing leaving the women barracks along with the prison officials,” said the report.

“The footage, which lasts seven hours, shows her leaving around 10.37 am and returning around 17.51 pm, making it clear that she had left the jail premises,” the report said, adding that prison officials had falsified records for that particular day.

The report noted the explanation offered by the DGP (prisons), that the cells near Sasikala and Ilavarasi’s were vacated as a security measure, but added that the panel was given no evidence to suggest the two faced a level of threat that deserved such a step.

Kumar’s report categorically said the then jail superintendent, Krishna Kumar, was aware the vacant cells were being used by Sasikala and Ilavarasi for personal purposes.

It added that one of the cells was being used to cook food for the two — an inference drawn when an inquiry team member “passed his hand on the shelf and found unmissable traces of turmeric powder. This further raises strong suspicion of food cooking in the cell”, the report stated.

‘Happy and satisfied’

Speaking to ThePrint, Roopa said she knew her report was well-researched and had all the necessary evidence to support her claims, but added she was upset it was just seen as an allegation.

“It is unfortunate my report was not taken at face value,” she said. “I find it quite demeaning as I was in a responsible position and had the authority to report any such irregularities.”

“Finally, an independent inquiry committee headed by Vinay Kumarji has said the same things I said. That way I am happy and satisfied, Roopa added. “I feel that this has to be brought to its logical end,” she said.

However, Roopa said the findings will not affect Sasikala’s jail term as of now.

“If you see, till now, Sasikala has not shown ‘bad behaviour’,” she said. “In this case, the onus is on prison officials for violating rules. But if the money trail is established, then, in accordance with the Prevention of Corruption Act, the person giving the bribe and taking it will be responsible,” she added.

Roopa’s allegation of bribery, aimed at two senior police officials, is currently being probed by the Anti-Corruption bureau (ACB) on the recommendation of the committee.

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