When Oscar Wilde said, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life,” you have to wonder if even he could have predicted the case of Safeer Karim – the IPS officer arrested in Chennai for allegedly copying in the UPSC exam.
Safeer’s entire experience with India’s premiere civil services, from his rise to popularity among UPSC aspirants two years ago to his ignominious fall on Monday, can be captured in just two movies – Suresh Gopi’s 1994 film Commissioner and Sanjay Dutt’s 2003 blockbuster Munna Bhai MBBS.
In a scene lifted straight out of Munna Bhai MBBS, Safeer came up with a complicated plan to allegedly copy his way through the mind-bogglingly difficult UPSC exam. With a micro-camera inside a shirt button, Safeer allegedly clicked pictures of the question paper and uploaded them onto a cloud server.
His wife Joicy, sitting in an IAS coaching centre in Hyderabad, downloaded the paper, and allegedly whispered answers to him through a phone and Bluetooth headset he had smuggled into the hall in his socks.
The irony of Safeer’s alleged crime is that if Munna Bhai set him on the path to get arrested, it was Suresh Gopi’s Commissioner that brought him to the civil services in the first place.
In 2014, Karim – who hails from Aluva Kerala and founded a group of IAS coaching centres called Karim’s La Excellence – secured an all-India rank of 112 in the UPSC exam. He then elected to join the Indian Police Services (IPS), and has been serving on probation as the Assistant Superintendent of Police in the Nanguneri sub-division in Tirunelveli district.
According to reports, actor-turned-MP Suresh Gopi’s Commissioner, which shows a fair and honest officer waging a war against corruption, was Safeer’s inspiration to join the IPS instead of the IAS. In the same interview that Safeer had given to a Malayalam newspaper, the IPS officer also said that the UPSC exam was like a video game, and was easy to crack once you knew the “technique”.
Safeer had also reportedly met Suresh Gopi and hugged him and expressed his gratitude to him on one occasion.
Image courtesy: Facebook/Safeer Karim
It isn't yet clear why Safeer subsequently changed his mind and decided to try to qualify for the IAS.
In a further twist to the story, Mahesh Buddil reported for The Times of India that Safeer had scored high in the Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude paper when he cracked the UPSC exam in 2014. TOI quoted a batchmate of Safeer, who said that he had secured a score of 108 out of 250 in that exam, which was higher than his marks in the other General Studies papers.
Safeer may now pay a heavy price for his filmy plan. Reports say that the Union Home Ministry has asked for a report from the police about the incident, and Safeer may be dismissed from his IPS post. There is no clarity yet on why Safeer embarked on his alleged crime, as the version of the IPS officer or his wife has not yet been heard.