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‘Leaked tapes’ of Karnataka IPS officer, murky power deal — scandal hits Yediyurappa govt

The clips, in which police chief Bhaskar Rao is purportedly talking to a power broker, have renewed allegations of political appointments in the police.

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Bengaluru: Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa’s BJP government has been hit by a scandal within weeks of coming to power, with alleged leaked audio clips referring to a murky scandal behind the appointment of Bengaluru Police commissioner Bhaskar Rao.

The post has seen a number of controversies in the past few months. First, Alok Kumar, the junior-most ADGP-rank officer, was appointed commissioner. Then, he was transferred abruptly, just 47 days into his tenure, as soon as Yediyurappa came to power. Kumar, who was close to former CM H.D. Kumaraswamy according to police department sources, had the shortest-ever tenure in the post.

A visibly upset Kumar did not stay around to hand over the ceremonial baton to Rao, another first in the history of the Karnataka Police. Rao merely picked up the baton lying on the table in his new chamber, and signed papers to take charge.

Now, three unverified audio clips have surfaced, allegedly containing conversations between Rao and a power broker. The clips claim to expose the underbelly of lobbyists and the race for plum posts among IPS officers.

What’s in the clips?

The clips, aired by News18 Kannada, purportedly contain conversations between Rao and a man named Faraz, who was allegedly involved in a Ponzi scheme in Karnataka and was referred to as a close aide of senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel. The clips, said to be about six months old, allegedly highlight how Rao expected the broker to lobby for him to become commissioner.

Rao allegedly wanted the high command of the Congress — ally of Kumaraswamy’s JD(S) in the previous government — to be informed about Kumar’s “reputation”.

“Don’t take the argument of 4 months as nobody can replace him (Alok) for a year. He will also go to court and the GoI regulations on these matters are very strict. An officer in an executive post cannot be changed for a year. But that fellow is the junior most officer… He is four years junior… He does not have a good reputation,” Rao purportedly says in the audio clip.

“There are allegations that he minted money in the lottery scam. The CBI inquiry is still under progress and they have not closed the case. If they (Congress leaders) say that he will continue, then ask them to refuse by asking why do they want to place a man who will bring them shame.”

Rao has completely denied any link to the conversations, and has ordered a probe into the audio clips.

Also read: Karnataka IPS tapes: ‘Ahmed Patel said I will make him commissioner, Revanna will support’

Politically-motivated appointments

Rao’s appointment was seen as a politically-motivated move. Yediyurappa had said in the assembly that his government would not indulge in vindictive politics, but hours after taking oath, transferred five IPS officers. Soon after, six more IPS and three IAS officers were transferred.

Predecessor Kumar’s appointment was equally controversial — he was named Bengaluru’s 32nd police commissioner by the Kumaraswamy government in a midnight reshuffle. He was the junior-most ADGP-rank officer, and his appointment superseded 18 senior officers, creating a furore in the IPS ranks. It was a bigger surprise because Kumar had faced suspension after being named in an illegal lottery sale case.

Kumar has petitioned the Central Administrative Tribunal against his removal from the post, calling it a total breach of the principles of natural justice, quoting clause 20-F of the Karnataka Police Act, 1963, which guarantees a minimum tenure of a year in any posting.

How did the clips leak?

A senior police officer, who wished to remain anonymous, questioned how the clips were leaked.

“Tapping or intercepting calls is illegal unless it has been ordered for specific purposes involving national security. Who authorised this tap and who leaked it? That needs to be thoroughly investigated,” the officer said.

Former commissioner Kumar answered this query by telling the media that Faraz’s calls were being intercepted as he was known to have been involved in a Ponzi scam. He, however, did not indicate that he knew about the clips.

Another senior IPS officer who did not wish to be named said the All India Services (Conduct) Rules of 1968 clearly state: “No member of the service shall bring or attempt to bring any political or other influence to bear upon any superior authority to further interests in respect of matters pertaining to his service under the government.”

The officer said: “If the clip is true, what Rao has done violates this service rule.”

System in a free-fall

Former Karnataka DGP Ajai Kumar Singh told ThePrint that such incidents set a bad precedent, and are totally unacceptable. He said such developments should be taken seriously and all those involved should be held accountable.

“Who can we blame? Whether it is the politicians, or other agencies that put pressure, or the officers themselves who are involved in this, each one should be accountable. Action should be taken,” Singh said.

Another former Karnataka DGP S.T. Ramesh said there is far more politicisation of the police than the media and the general public think there is.

“The rapid and frequent turnover of officers is anything but good for the administration. Seniority is an important factor, and should be given due weightage, unless there are compelling reasons for overlooking an officer,” Ramesh said.

He pointed out that the previous BJP government, whose term ended in 2013, was the one that had brought in the amendment to the Karnataka Police Act that provided a minimum tenure of one year for all executive posts.

“The system is seeing a precipitous fall. With every passing government, the standards are getting lower. The law provides for a fixed tenure, but political leaders violate it with impunity,” Ramesh said.

“It is seriously impacting citizens as policing takes a beating, apart from shattering the morale of the police brass. A junior officer would wonder that if it happens to a senior officer what about me? They won’t be able to deliver the goods.”

Also read: B.S. Yediyurappa, the God-fearing, astrology-believing leader who’s rewriting rules in BJP


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