Yes, Sasikala got special privileges in jail: Details of Vinay Kumar panel findings

TNM has accessed the report submitted by the Vinay Kumar commission on the allegations made by Roopa IPS in 2017.
Yes, Sasikala got special privileges in jail: Details of Vinay Kumar panel findings
Yes, Sasikala got special privileges in jail: Details of Vinay Kumar panel findings

Sasikala and Ilavarasi had a corridor to themselves in the Bengaluru Central Prison when they were lodged there in 2017; they had free movement inside the prison; and they met visitors for several hours at a time, completely against the prison rules. These were allegations made by IPS officer Roopa in mid-2017, and the one-man commission that was constituted to probe her claims has vindicated her. TNM has accessed a copy of the Vinay Kumar commission report – which was submitted to the government in 2017, the details of which have not been made public until now.

In his report, the retired IAS officer found that the prison officials had falsified several records for VK Sasikala – the aide of late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa – and her sister-in-law Ilavarasi, who have been lodged there in a disproportionate assets case. Among the irregularities found by the Vinay Kumar commission are – an entire corridor with five rooms being left empty for Sasikala’s use, under the guise of providing security to her; extended visiting hours and falsification of records to cover this up; and free movement within jail premises with the help of jail officials.

Why the commission report is important

In mid-2017, the allegation of special privileges to some prisoners including Sasikala and Abdul Karim Telgi had caused embarrassment to the Karnataka government, then led by Siddaramaiah. IPS officer Roopa, who was the DIG of Prisons in the state back then, had submitted a report where she alleged a quid-pro-quo arrangement between jail officials and high profile prisoners. The report was submitted to the then-DGP Prisons HN Satyanarayana Rao – who disagreed with Roopa – and was also leaked to the media.

As a fallout of the same, both Roopa and Satyanarayana were transferred out of their positions as were other senior staff of the jail. Retired IAS officer Vinay Kumar was then tasked to find the truth in the matter, and he submitted his report later in 2017, after which the case was shifted to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).

However, so far the ACB has not made any arrests in the case, and until now, the details of the Vinay Kumar report were not made public.

Separate corridor

Roopa had alleged that an entire corridor with five cells were cordoned off for Sasikala (and Ilavarasi) to use exclusively. The Vinay Kumar commission found this to be true, when they visited the prison on July 19, 2017. “The entire block of 5 cells, together with their corridor, was open to use by Sasikala and Ilavarasi alone, not by anyone else. The shelves were empty but tell-tale marks of the things having being removed from them were still there,” the report says.

The commission also notes that while the prison officials had claimed that this was done as a security measure, as Sasikala – being a high profile prisoner – could face threats, the officials had done nothing to investigate the source or scope of these threats even several months after she was lodged in the prison.

The report also takes note of the cramping caused in the rest of the cells occupied by other female convicts.

“It is pertinent to observe here that the authorised strength of the Female Barrack is 100 prisoners and it has 28 cells i.e. an average of about 4 prisoners per cell. When 5 cells are taken away for 2 prisoners, the cramping of prisoners in the remaining 23 cells will be much more than the authorised level. On 24.7.2017 the number of prisoners in Female Barrack was 124 i.e an average of over 5 prisoners in the remaining 23 cells, excluding 5 for Sasikala,” reads the report.

Free movement within prison

Taking cognisance of three videos submitted to the commission by Roopa, and other CCTV footage from inside the prison, the commission concluded that Sasikala enjoyed free movement within the prison. The proof includes short video clips of Sasikala and Ilavarasi, one of which shows them going out of the female barrack with a bag in hand.

“These short video clips carry evidence of the fact that they have the freedom to use their personal clothings and are escorted by Superintendent Anitha, who had been appointed their security incharge by the DGP & lG Prison,” the report nortes.

Falsification of records

The commission found that, as per CCTV footage, Sasikala met with a person in white shirt and white pants for over four hours on June 11, 2017. According to the prison register, the person is A Ashokan, her advocate; however, the register claims she met with him for only 45 minutes – which is the maximum time that a prisoner can spend with a visitor – as against the CCTV evidence that showed she met him for several hours.

“The [Daily Report submitted by the chief superintendent of the prison for 11.7 .2017] also shows that ilavarasi on that day had seven visitors and the total time of the visit, in her case, was again 45 minutes from 1400 hours to 1445 hours. This can only be explained as deliberate misreporting on the part of the concerned prison officials to escape falling within the prohibition of Rule 601 of the Karnataka Prison Manual 1978. In other words, it is a case of falsification of records,” the commission noted.

This wasn’t the only instance when a record was falsified, the commission said. On one incident of July 7, 2017, the commission noted while the video evidence suggested she met visitor for close to seven hours, there is no mention of it in the records. Again in the case of one incident of June 29, “similar manipulation” was discovered.  

“While the total time recorded comes to five hours, the Daily Report for this day shows something very different. The visitor is shown as Asokan, Advocate from 1515 to 1600 hrs i.e. 45 minutes,” the report mentions.

‘Food may have been cooked separately’

The committee taking cognisance of photographic evidence of D Roopa had probed allegations of food being prepared for Sasikala inside the jail other than in the jail kitchen. The photographs showed presence of cooking vessels including a pressure cooker in her cell.

The committee took note of the fact that opposed to claims by the then Jail Superintendent Krishna Kumar, pressure cookers are generally used to cook food rather than store food and also observed that Krishna Kumar’s or no other jail staff did not categorically deny if cooking activity took place at all.

Separate meeting room

IPS Roopa had told the commission that Sasikala met her visitors in a separate room on the first floor of the building which had a table, a revolving chair, four other chairs and curtains.

Based on his investigations, Vinay Kumar concluded that while a special facility in the first floor room, for interview of prisoners with their visitors, had existed since April 2016 – several months before Sasikala was jailed – a separate register was maintained since February 2017 only for Sasikala.

“For Mrs Sasikala l was orally directed to arrange interviews with the visitors in the first floor visitors’ room,” Jail Superintendent Anitha told the commission.

Class A privileges and security

The committee found that certain procedures and arrangement were made between February 15 and 18, 2017, based on the orders of HNS Rao dated February 14, when Sasikala was jailed. These were similar to ‘Class A’ privileges – that some prisoners get, on the basis of court orders. However, the commission noted that a court order had categorically denied Class A privileges to Sasikala – like permission to use her own clothes and to get a cot – but the privileges continued in prison nonetheless.

The facilities include barricading of adjoining corridors, tasting of evening meal and tea, two plastic chairs, eight additional women warders, facility of “entertainment” and using fruits, biscuits, soaps, toothpaste and clothes.

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