14 August 2019
Bengaluru: Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa on Wednesday ordered an inquiry into the alleged phone-tapping of political leaders and senior police officers during the previous JD-S-Congress coalition government rule.
"The Chief Minister has directed Chief Secretary T.M. Vijaya Bhaskar to inquire into the reported tapping of phones of political leaders, rebel legislators of the coalition allies and some IPS officers," Union Minister of Chemicals and Fertilisers D.V. Sadananda Gowda told reporters here after a meeting of the city's assembly and parliamentary members with Yediyurappa on the development of Bengaluru's infrastructure projects.
Gowda represents the Bangalore North seat in the Lok Sabha from the southern state.
The phone-tapping controversy came to the light recently after an audio tape in which new city police commissioner Bhaskar Rao's name figured was leaked to the media, alleging that he and two other IPS officers were vying for the high-profile post.
"As unauthorised phone-tapping is a criminal offence, only a thorough inquiry will reveal who all were involved in the scandal. The culprits should be booked and punished," asserted Gowda.
Gowda was also BJP's chief minister in the southern state for over a year from August 2011 to mid-September 2012 when the saffron party was in power from 2008 to 2013.
According to an interim report by the Joint Commissioner of Police (crime), Rao's conversations were tapped thrice between May and June after the Lok Sabha elections in the state were held in two phases on April 18 and April 23.
In a sudden move on August 2, the BJP chief minister appointed the 1990 batch officer of the Indian Police Service (IPS) Rao as the city police commissioner, replacing 1994 IPS officer Alok Kumar Singh, who assumed office only 47 days ago on June 17.
Rao was Additional Director-General of Police (ADGP) of the Karnataka State Reserve Police (KSRP) when his telecon was reportedly tapped, as he too was eyeing the coveted post.
As Singh was transferred to replace Rao in the KSRP without completing even three months in the commissioner's post, he did not hand over the customary baton to Rao when the latter assumed charge on August 2.
Yediyurappa, who became chief minister for the fourth time on July 26, is also the state home minister as he has not expanded his cabinet so far.
"The phone-tapping occurred inadvertently when then Additional Commissioner of Police (crime) was legally intercepting calls of Injaz International managing director Misbauddin Mukarram, as an inquiry was underway on him for operating an alleged Ponzi scheme similar to that of IMA Jewellers founder and prime accused Mohammed Mansoor Khan and in which several investors were also duped of their savings in crores of rupees," said the interim report.
Names and 'voices' of senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel and state's former PWD Minister H.D. Revanna of the JD-S also figured in the 'audio' tapes.
Revanna, a legislator from Holenarsipur in Hassan district, is the elder brother of former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and second son of former Prime Minister and JD-S supremo H.D. Deve Gowda.
In a related development, disqualified JD-S rebel legislator A.H. Vishwanath lauded the chief minister for ordering a probe into the illegal phone-tapping of his and other disqualified rebel MLAs of the JD-S and Congress in July after they resigned from their assembly seats and were camping in Mumbai from July 6-30.
"As we came to know that our landlines at home and mobile phones were being bugged, we stopped using them and other phones to avoid being recorded," recalled Vishwanath, who was the party's working president.
The former Congress minister from the old Mysuru region told reporters that about 300 phones were in surveillance during the 14-month tenure of the JD-S-Congress government in the state on the instructions of then Chief Minister's Office.
"All the rebel MLAs were threatened that our conversations would be made public if we did not withdraw our resignations and attend the assembly session to vote in favour of the trust vote, which Kumaraswamy lost (on July 23) as he did not have the numbers in his favour," recalled Vishwanath.