Sudhanva Shetty Shetty
Writer, coffee-addict, likes folk music & long walks in the rain. Firmly believes that there's nothing more important in a democracy than a well-informed electorate.
Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Prisons D Roopa, whose report had alleged special treatment provided to politicians and interim general secretary of AIADMK VK Sasikala, has been served a defamation notice by HN Satyanarayana Rao, the state’s Director General of Prisons and Roopa’s former boss.
In the seven-page notice, dated July 16, 2017, issued by Rao’s lawyer on his behalf, allegations made by Roopa against Rao are referred to.
“You (D Roopa) are required to get an apology duly published in all leading newspapers in the next three days, failing which, I will be constrained to initiate appropriate legal proceedings both civil and criminal, against you to recover damages from you and the same is quantified as Rs 50 crore tentatively,” Rao said in the notice
Concerns that special treatment has been give to Sasikala, one of Parappana Agrahara’s more recognised inmates, is not new. In April, a Right to Information (RTI) reply revealed that Sasikala was allowed more than her share of visitors and many after the 5 pm deadline.
Roopa paid the prison a surprise visit on July 10 when she discovered serious irregularities.
According to the report by Roopa, Sasikala’s special treatment included an exclusive kitchen for her meals, deputing inmates to cook food for her, flouting of prison norms to suit her schedule, and other discrepancies involving other inmates, including under-trials being deputed to serve prisoners and instances of drug usage.
Roopa’s report alleged that Sasikala and her party members had paid a bribe of about Rs 2 crore to jail officials to secure their special treatment and their silence. And while the report did not directly accuse Rao, it did indicate “speculation” that Mr Rao might have been a beneficiary of the bribe.
Rao, who has also been transferred by the state government, called the allegations in the report “wild and baseless”. He has been transferred only days before his retirement; his new posting has not been disclosed yet.
In his notice, Rao claimed that Roopa’s allegations have caused severe damage to his name, fame, integrity and mental agony.
“The notice mentions that Roopa based her allegation on hearsay. She has not only damaged Rao’s reputation just prior to his retirement after serving the department for 30-plus years, but also dented his credentials in reputed wings like the CBI and Lokayukta, where he had worked and earned a good name,” a source which accessed the notice was quoted by The Times of India as saying.
Rao’s lawyer argued that if Roopa could take pictures on prison premises, why did she not take photographs of inmates receiving special treatment?
“You claim that you have taken pictures of irregularities inside the prison. But you have not taken the picture of Sasikala’s separate kitchen and other royal facilities, which are the prime subject of your allegations. You could not take pictures because nothing like that existed,” Rao’s notice read.
Following her revelations, Roopa was transferred by the Karnataka state government to road safety and traffic on Monday, 17 July. Also transferred was HN Satyanarayana Rao.
Amidst the outrage evoked by Roopa’s report, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah ordered an inquiry into the functioning of the central prison.
However, he also warned that action could be taken against Roopa for violating her service rules by going to the media. He told reporters, “It is an administrative process, it is not necessary to disclose everything to the media … We have given her a notice. You don’t have go to the TV all the time if you have documents and evidence, please give. We have no objection regarding corruption and bribery but going to TV and newspapers: that is prohibited. Service rules don’t permit.”
Roopa, however, said that she had not leaked her report, which had been sent to five senior officials in the government.
The senior police officer said she had no axe to grind and if she had anything to hide, “I wouldn’t have taken the step of exposing (irregularities in jail).”
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