The Karnataka police finds itself in the grip of a phone-tapping scandal which is growing murkier by the day. On Sunday, 18 August, CM Yediyurappa announced that he has ordered a CBI probe into the matter.
A state-level probe was done into the allegations of phone tapping after the involvement of senior police officers, Bengaluru City Commissioner Bhaskar Rao and his predecessor and at present Assistant Director General of Police with the Karnataka State Reserve Police Alok Kumar, came to light.
An interim report had been submitted in this regard by Sandeep Patil, Joint-Commissioner of Police (Crime), who heads the Central Crime Branch (CCB), which names senior politicians along with top cops like Bhaskar Rao as some of the people whose phones were being intercepted, reportedly on the orders of a cop of the ADGP rank.
In a u-turn, Alok Kumar on Friday, 16 August, withdrew his petition challenging his transfer order in the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT). He had earlier sought a stay on his transfer after he was replaced by Bhaskar Rao merely 47 days after taking charge.
Soon after the BJP government came to power, a swift transfer of sixteen IPS officers was executed. Similarly, Alok Kumar served as the Bengaluru commissioner for a short period of time before being replaced by Rao on 2 August.
It is believed that a power battle between senior police officers vying for the top post of Bengaluru commissioner has now come into the open.
What Does the Interim Report State?
The first interim report which was submitted concludes that there is evidence of phone tapping of over 185 people, including senior MLAs, aides of politicians, and top cops including present Bengaluru commissioner Bhaskar Rao, The New Indian Express reported.
The phone tapping was reportedly engineered and leaked to the press by a police officer of the rank of ADGP, and State Police Chief Neelamani Raju reportedly met with Rao, Patil and other senior officers in light of the report.
Why Was the Probe Ordered?
A probe was ordered in the light of the release of three audio tapes last week, supposedly said to contain conversations between Rao and someone called Faraz, The Times of India reported.
In the clips, Rao can allegedly be heard talking to Faraz, a ‘power broker’ with links to the Congress, about whether or not Faraz had managed to convince the high command in Delhi to make him city commissioner, reported TOI.
According to a report in Deccan Herald, Faraz was also a suspect in a Ponzi scam because of which he had been under investigation.
The alleged phone-tapping took place when Kumar was serving as Bengaluru police commissioner. It was soon after he was replaced on 2 August that the audio clips started doing the rounds.
Reacting to this, Kumar reportedly said, “We were intercepting the phone calls of Faraz as he was a suspect in a Ponzi scam and he had met me once. We have not tracked others’ calls.”
Phones of Politicians, Aides May Also Have Been Tapped
Along with Rao, the interim report also reportedly states that the phones of senior BJP, Congress and JD(S) party leaders, mediapersons, close aides of politicians, and police officers were among more than 185 numbers that had been intercepted for weeks leading up to the general elections in April.
According to TNIE, the report names BJP MLA Arvind Limbavali, BJP’s DR CN Ashwathnarayana, former minister Janardhan Reddy, Bhaskar Rao among others, as those whose phones were tapped.
Former JD(S) president and now disqualified MLA, H Vishwanath on Wednesday, 14 August, alleged that former CM Kumaraswamy used to tap the phones of his allies and enemies alike. Vishwanath claimed that HDK had tapped the phones of Siddaramaiah and BS Yediyurappa.
Kumaraswamy took to Twitter to distance himself and his government from the scandal. He wrote, “I was the one who repeatedly said that the power of the chief minister is not permanent. This chair has no need to retain power by eavesdropping on telephone conversations. These allegations levelled against me by certain leaders are far from the truth.”
ಮುಖ್ಯಮಂತ್ರಿ ಅಧಿಕಾರ ಶಾಶ್ವತವಲ್ಲ ಎಂದು ಪದೇ ಪದೇ ಹೇಳುತ್ತಿದ್ದವನು ನಾನು. ಈ ಕುರ್ಚಿಗಾಗಿ ಟೆಲಿಫೋನ್ ಕದ್ದಾಲಿಕೆ ಮಾಡಿ ಅಧಿಕಾರ ಉಳಿಸಿಕೊಳ್ಳುವ ಅವಶ್ಯಕತೆ ನನಗಿರಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಈ ವಿಚಾರದಲ್ಲಿ ಕೆಲವರು ನನ್ನ ವಿರುದ್ಧ ಮಾಡಿರುವ ಆರೋಪ ಸತ್ಯಕ್ಕೆ ದೂರವಾದದ್ದು.— H D Kumaraswamy (@hd_kumaraswamy) August 14, 2019
(With inputs from The Times of India, Deccan Herald and The New Indian Express)
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