A local court in Bengaluru granted bail to Dr Rehan Shahed and Sashikumar, nearly a month after their arrest on the suspicion that they were involved in a COVID-19 bed blocking scam. The court's orders came as an embarrassment to the police as it said that the police are yet to present any material evidence or explain exactly how the scam happened. Dr Rehan, who was a nodal officer at the BBMP's south zone COVID War Room, was relieved of his charge on May 4 and arrested hours after BJP MP Tejasvi Surya and three BJP MLAs conducted their infamous raid on the facility, claiming that they were busting a bed allocation scam. The court also granted bail to data operator Shashi Kumar who was another accused in the case.
The order by Additional City and Civil Sessions judge B Venkatesha says that the police lodged the complaint against Dr Rehan and data operator Shashi Kumar âassuming that the war room staff maybe taking money while allotting beds to needy patients by way of blocking beds in the names of COVID patients who were in home isolation.â The court noted that no such evidence has been placed to show from whom the accused received money while blocking beds as alleged by the police. The court said there is no ground to believe there is a prima facie case against the accused as no specific complaint has been made by any citizen saying that the accused demanded money for allotting a bed.
During the BJP raid, Tejasvi Surya had singled out 16 Muslim men from the War Room staff of over 200, implying they were behind the scam, and raged against BBMP officials for appointing them. In the video of the incident, which had since gone viral, Basavanagudi BJP MLA Ravi Subramanya, Surya's uncle, was heard saying, "Is this a madrasa?" Ravi Subramanya can also be heard asking if "they (Muslim staffers) were recruited for a corporation or a madrasa".
Although the MP and his team provided no further evidence against them, the 16 Muslim men were detained for more than 24 hours by the Jayanagar police and then let off after several harrowing rounds of interrogation. Though the BBMP claimed it was ready to reinstate them, they have not been given placements.
Dr Rehan's case is, however, different from the 16 who were all floor-level workers who handled incoming distress calls. While the others were detained immediately after the MP named them on the afternoon of May 4, Dr Rehan was picked up later that night and interrogated separately. The police announced his arrest late the next evening.
Accusing the police of pursuing a political agenda, the bail application said that they had not been able to make any specific allegation against Dr Rehan. Appearing on his behalf, former Advocate General and senior advocate Ashok Harnahalli told the magistrate that no incriminating material has been recovered from the accused and no relation has been established between him and the alleged crime.
In his application, Harnahalli also pointed out that Dr Rehan was appointed to the COVID War Room by the BBMP on a contractual basis on June 3, 2020 without any independent power to allocate beds. He had no signing authority and was not in a position to authorise or influence the allocation of relief to COVID-19 patients, the petition said.
Citing these factors, the defense questioned the premise of the police's case under section 409 of the IPC (Indian Penal Code) which pertains to breach of trust by a public servant. Harnahalli also pointed out that the final authority to allocate resources at the War Room was with senior government officials and not contract employees like Dr Rehan.
Speaking to TNM, advocate Shahul Hameed, from Dr Rehan's legal team, said, "This is clearly an abuse of the process of law. We will be moving to the High Court soon to seek quashing of the case."