A RECENT internal report by Karnataka’s DIG (Prisons) D Roopa, alleging corruption in Bengaluru Central Prison, has pitched the kingpin of fake stamp paper racket Abdul Karim Telgi into the spotlight for alleged prison corruption for the second time since 2001, when he was arrested. One of the allegations in DIG Roopa’s letter to DGP (Prisons) H N Sathyanarayana Rao — dated July 12, 2017, and leaked to the media subsequently — is that prison authorities had granted special favours to Telgi, serving a 13-year jail term. It is alleged that he had a couple of prisoners as assistants to massage and help him in jail.
But police officials well-versed with the prison system in Karnataka maintain that the latest allegations of violation of prison rules to benefit Telgi could be “misplaced”, as the jail manual allows assistants for prisoners considered to be ill and requiring support. “There is a lot of small corruption and a definite hierarchy of prisoners. That cannot be completely eradicated,” a senior IPS officer, who was in charge of different state jails, said. “Some things (in DIG Roopa’s report) are allowed under prison rules, and many involve complicity of jail officials, who depend on prisoners in running day-to-day affairs of different jails given the staff shortage.”
Jail officials often work around rules in an informal way to maintain peace, the officer said. “When high-profile politicians such as (BJP leader and former CM) B S Yeddyurappa, (mining baron and BJP leader) Janardhan Reddy or Sasikala are lodged in VIP cells, jail authorities will ensure that they are not locked up with a hardened criminal as cellmate. They would provide a choice of cellmates or put someone who can help them in jail with everyday activities,” the former prison official said.
According to a senior IPS officer, much of the allegations of luxuries being granted are “exaggerations”, as the prison system in Karnataka has, over the years, come under heavy scrutiny. “Prisoners (now) have to pay to even breathe in peace — it is a perk to be just left alone by jailors and other prisoners,” the officer said. “It is a closed system, and those in jail, including officials, rule the roost.”
While DIG Roopa’s letter alleged that Sasikala had paid a bribe of Rs 2 crore to DGP (Prisons) for largesse such as a separate kitchen, police sources denied that she was given a separate kitchen, although they pointed out that some concessions were made. For instance, a source said, the jail kitchen was allowed to stay open beyond the closing time of 5 pm so that Sasikala could be served hot food.
The DIG’s report also states that two or three cells were kept empty in the barracks for women prisoners for Saiskala’s benefit. Prison officials claimed that the cells were kept empty as a security measure. A senior official said another reason why the cells were found empty at Bengaluru Central Prison was because a large number of inmates were moved out to a special women’s jail built in Tumkur.
But, the official said, “There is no way air-conditioning can be provided in a prison cell, as was allegedly done in Sasikala’s cell. Televisions are allowed, and there are often fights in common viewing areas over which channels to watch.”
About allegations that Sasikala was allowed to wear regular clothes in jail in violation of rules, prison officials claimed that newly incarcerated prisoners tend to be allowed to wear fancy clothes to meet their visitors since they insist on it, and Sasikala had done the same.