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Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019

Report on Sasikala’s VIP treatment in jail remerges ahead of possible early release

The leaked investigation report has found serious lapses and falsification of records by senior prison officials to provide Class-A facilities to Sasikala, in violation of the rules and directions of Karnataka Home Secretary.

south Updated: Oct 10, 2019 01:14 IST
MC Rajan
MC Rajan
Hindustan Times, Chennai
Loyalists and detractors alike await the release of Sasikala, who once kept the ruling AIADMK under her thumb.
Loyalists and detractors alike await the release of Sasikala, who once kept the ruling AIADMK under her thumb. (HT PHOTO)
         

An inquiry report on the VIP treatment accorded to VK Sasikala, incarcerated confidant of late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, has reemerged, casting a shadow over her likely premature release expected in February next.

Loyalists and detractors alike await the release of Sasikala, who once kept the ruling AIADMK under her thumb. And, renewed speculation is rife in political circles that she holds the key for political realignment in the ruling party.

Now, dashing the hopes of her supporters, the damning report of the Vinay Kumar Committee, which has exposed Sasikala’s luxurious life in prison, has resurfaced in the public domain. According to her supporters, this is a ploy to delay the early release of ‘Chinnamma’ (Sasikala) based on good conduct.

Her counsel, Raja Senthoor Pandian speaking to media persons rubbished the report as inconsequential. In his view, there is nothing new or adverse against Sasikala.

“The video shows Sasikala and Ilavarasi walking within the prison premises and there is no proof of them having gone out for shopping. It’s walking not shopping,” he told the media. Yet, Pandian did not respond to questions on why the report then indicts the prison officials for providing Class-A treatment to her.

The Vinay Kumar committee was setup by the Karnataka government to investigate allegations by the then DIG (Prisons) D Roopa that Sasikala was receiving preferrential treatment in Jail and that Rs 2 crore bribe had been paid for the same.

While the committee report has been submitted, it is not in the public domain, but a leaked report originally surfaced in January of this year and on Wednesday again became a topic of discussion after the Central Crime Branch of Bengaluru police conducted a surprise raid on Parapanna Agrahara jail following reports of illegal use of mobile phones and contrband goods including ganja. Parapanna Agrahara jail is very Sasikala is also housed currently.

The leaked investigation report has found serious lapses and falsification of records by senior prison officials to provide Class-A facilities to Sasikala, in violation of the rules and directions of Karnataka Home Secretary. According to the report, she was given five contiguous cells for her personal use, including cooking by a prison mate. Inmates in the four cells were evicted prior to her arrival, it was pointed out.

“Curtains were put to prevent cats from entering into the other cells” was the response of Chief Superintendent of Prison Krishna Kumar, as recorded in the report.

The report says ‘special arrangement was activated for the use of Sasikala’ to have visitors. It is unusual to maintain a separate register for a convict and it had been done for Sasikla. Further, while the CCTV recordings showed that she had been engaging her visitors for over four to five hours, the entries in the register shows them as only 45 minutes, ‘a clear case of falsification of records’, the report pointed out.

The one-man panel also examined the videos of Sasikala and her relative Ilavarasi, also convicted in the case, in normal clothes with shopping bags.

Sasikala was lodged in the Parapana Agrahara prison in February 2016 following the Supreme Court upholding her conviction in the disproportionate wealth case, which included Jayalalithaa as well. Till a few days before her incarceration, she was close to becoming the Chief Minister after her election as the leader of the AIADMK legislature party.

The Karnataka Government constituted the Vinay Kumar panel to probe the charges leveled by the then Prison DIG, D Roopa that Sasikala was accorded special privileges, which she was not entitled to. The report was submitted to the government in January this year.

However, the timing of the report emerging once again has given room to speculation that there is a BJP hand in this.

“The BJP as well as the AIADMK are apprehensive that her release might possibly threaten the present equilibrium in the ruling party. The AIADMK MLAs owe their present position as legislators to her and the cadre resenting the BJP apparently controlling the AIADMK could turn to her once she steps out of prison. That she has the potential to consolidate a section of the party could not be denied. For, Sasikala bribing prison officials to have a normal life rather than that of a convict will in no way affect her popularity among supporters. Rather, they would be only proud of her. As such any attempt to delay her premature release would be seen in all likelihood as part of a BJP agenda,” argues political commentator Babu Jayakumar.

In his view, there is more to it than what meets the eye.

Both the BJP and the AIADMK have dismissed this, maintaining that she is no more a threat neither to the AIADMK government or the party.

“The BJP has nothing to do with this. The BJP was not in power when wealth case was filed and the trial was shifted to Karnataka. It was the court which had convicted Sasikala after 19 years. We have nothing to gain by delaying her release and it is fertile imagination that the BJP is behind the reemergence of this report in the public domain. Sasikala is a spent force politically,” maintained Karu Nagarajan, BJP state general secretary.

Dismissing the view that Sasikala’s release will kindle a realignment in the AIADMK as a fiction, party spokesperson Sivasankari said the party had moved on and there is no possibility of turning back.

“Let the law take its own course. If Sasikala is found to have enjoyed facilities in contravention of the rules, she had to face the consequences as per law. We have no ulterior motive to keep her incarcerated. No more she is a threat to the stability of the government or the party,” she made it clear.

First Published: Oct 09, 2019 23:35 IST

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