Roopa Moudgil’s brief stint as DIG (prisons) exposed special treatment to Sasikala and other corrupt practices prevalent in Bengaluru central jail
The IPS officer who exposed Tamil Nadu politician VK Sasikala’s special privileges in Karnataka’s Parappana Agrahara central prison, D Roopa Moudgil, is now taking care of traffic wing in Karnataka police. The brave cop was transferred from the post of DIG prison soon after she blew the whistle.
However, this is not the first time the officer faced transfer for doing her job. This officer who took on various powerful politicians has been transferred 28 times in 17 years.
Roopa, from Davanagare, is a 2000 batch officer who cleared her UPSC examination with an All India Rank 43. With that, she became the first Kannadiga woman to get her home cadre.
In 2004, barely two months into her first assignment as superintendent of police in Dharwad district, Roopa arrested the then chief minister of Madhya Pradesh Uma Bharti on warrant issued by a Hubli court in a rioting case. After this, Bharti had to resign and surrender. Later on, as superintendent of police in Bidar, Roopa booked a case against a member of legislative council (MLC) for abetment of rioting. The MLC brought a privilege motion against her and the lady cop was transferred.
However, this did not undermine her commitment to duty. As superintendent of police in Gadag district she got a powerful local politician arrested for making inflammatory speeches that had led to huge destruction of public property.
In 2013, she withdrew BS Yeddyurappa’s escort vehicles, which included four Boleros, two Scorpios and one Qualis, which he had been using despite having stepped down as the chief minister. Further, as DCP armed reserve (Bengaluru city), she withdrew 115 gunmen from 82 politicians. These gunmen were policemen whom the politicians had kept with them without authorisation.
The brave cop was conferred with the president’s police medal for meritorious service on Republic Day in 2016.
Exposing Sasikala’s privileges in jail and the irregularities in the central jail, Roopa faced several challenges. She took out some time for a telephonic conversation with Governance Now and spoke on how the Bengaluru central prison is a microcosm of India’s prison system at large.
Mentioning the special treatment to Sasikala, Roopa says, “She had five cells at her disposal. She was using an entire corridor as her private space. The corridor was heavily barricaded on both sides and nobody could enter the area. On the other hand, there are overcrowded dormitories with 30 to 50 inmates living in each. Secondly, whatever she wanted was cooked for her. This was done with the help of some convicts. She was also provided with an electric induction stove.”
She says all this was never brought to the notice of the court. “Even if it was done for health reasons, there was no permission from the court. Hence, it’s discriminatory treatment,” she points out.
“Also, Sasikala used to wear her own clothes in the jail. Most of the time it was cotton nighties, and while meeting visitors, it was churidar or sarees. But she never wore white sarees meant for prison inmates. She was also supposed to use bedding provided in prisons but she had her own colourful quilts and bedsheets. A brand new LED television was provided in her cell.
Roopa was told about a video that is showing Sasikala coming from outside holding shopping bags. There are many anonymous letters saying that she often goes outside for shopping in a burqa. She often goes to stay at the Hosur MLA’s house which is located near the central prison, she further got to know. "These are things which are further to be investigated; only then the truth will come out,” says Roopa.
“She met visitors in a separate room which is in the office complex, whereas the prison inmates are supposed to meet visitors in a common gallery. The room in which Sasikala used to meet visitors has a revolving chair, table, and four additional chairs and is not connected to CCTV cameras. My suspicion is that she was remote-controlling political activities in Tamil Nadu by sitting and conversing in this room where she could meet a lot of people,” says the officer.
Roopa took charge as DIG (prisons) on June 23. Within a month of her posting, she visited the jail thrice. “I even found that Abdul Karim Telgi [a convict in the counterfeit stamp paper scam] also used to receive special treatment in prison,” she says.
She remembers that four days after her joining as DIG (prisons), a doctor was assaulted by a convict at the Bengaluru central prison. “I waited for a week for the report. Since no action was taken by prison officials I personally visited the prison and found several irregularities. Around 25 convicts were asked to take drug tests. Out of those 25, 18 tested positive for ganja [marijuana], which means that the illicit drug is also supplied in the prison. This too is mentioned in the report,” she adds.
The post of DIG (prisons) was created in 2010. But it was only in 2011 that an IPS officer took its charge. He remained there for one year, followed by two officers who could stick around for only a week each. The position remained vacant for three-and-a-half years before Roopa took charge. However, when she joined there was no mention of her duties, functions, powers and jurisdiction.
She says she did not have power to suspend anyone. “If I had the powers, I would have suspended people/officers found guilty, would have conducted inquiry, would have probed further on why the doctor was assaulted. Since I had no powers, I thought I should report of the incidents to my senior. Meanwhile, during the election symbol bribery case, news surfaced that a person called ‘Australia’ Prakash had given a statement before the Delhi police that he often arranged meetings between Sasikala and Mallikarjun. People like Mallikarujun pressurise and influence officials in the jail and arrange meetings.
“From reliable sources I learnt that Rs 2 crore had exchanged hands for this. There were also allegations that the chief superintendent of the jail had brokered the deal in favour of DG (prisons) and probably they all had their cut in it. But all this will come out only when the case is investigated. It is a case under violation of the Prevention of Corruption Act and should be investigated,” she adds.
Though focus has been on the Sasikala controversy, there are also other crucial issues such as availability of drugs in prisons, indiscipline, jammers remaining non-functional despite annual maintenance contracts being given to private companies, prisoners using mobile phones and so on, says Roopa.
She admits that after Sasikala’s case, she had to suffer a lot of stress for about a month. “Had I been sitting silent after witnessing everything, it would have been a lapse on my part. I have done my duty and acted in a manner that is transparent and accountable and that is how a public servant is supposed to discharge her duty. I have nothing to hide or fear about,” she says.
Though the Karnataka government has ordered a probe in the case, Roopa’s reports were initially rubbished by her seniors. Lack of cooperation from seniors in the department bothered her further. She was denied access to the recordings that she had made during her jail visits and was also served memos and a defamation notice.
She even had a tough time dealing with prison staff. “As a police officer I occupied the post of DIG (prisons) but prison is a different department. Prison officials are recruited in a different manner. An IPS officer heads the prison only at one point of time. The prison staff sees an IPS officer as an outsider,” she says.
This was evident when 32 convicts who reported to her about various corrupt practices in the jail were beaten and shifted to different jails in Karnataka. Roopa, however, received letters from the wives of those convicts acknowledging that because of her efforts such practices have come to light.
“A small group of convicts in the prison did support the rotten system and were controlled by the jail officials. They could have attacked me also as I visited alone without guards or gunmen,” she says.
(The story appears in the September 1-15, 2017 issue)