After a brief stint out of power, former minister K.J. George rejoined the Siddaramaiah cabinet on September 26. He even managed to retain the Bengaluru development and town planning portfolio. George was forced to step down in July after a first information report was filed against him in the case of alleged suicide by Mangaluru deputy superintendent of police M.K. Ganapathy. George was re-inducted after the Karnataka criminal investigation department gave him clean chit and submitted a report to this effect at the first class judicial magistrate’s court in Madikeri. Ganapathy’s son Nehal had lodged a complaint against George and two senior IPS officers, A.M. Prasad and Pronab Mohanty, under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (abetment to suicide).
After his return to the cabinet, George told reporters that truth had prevailed. “I know I have done nothing wrong. I voluntarily resigned on moral grounds. As per the High Court direction, the entire incident was investigated. I was given a clean chit.... People eager for a CBI probe are free to knock on the doors of the court.”
Ganapathy’s parents and siblings called the CID report false and expressed disappointment about George’s re-induction. A greater blow to the family was that Nehal chose not to file an objection to the CID report, effectively withdrawing from the case. He said the case was “affecting his education and future”. However, he appealed to the court to consider his grandparents, M.K. Kushalappa and Ponnamma, his uncle Machaiah and aunt Sabitha as plaintiffs in the case. Kushalappa and Machaiah had filed a writ petition before the Karnataka High Court seeking CBI probe. But the court said “there was no ground to refer the matter to the CBI” and asked them to submit their petition to the magistrate’s court.
The family contested the order before a division bench, which, too, rejected the plea. They are now preparing to approach the Supreme Court.
It was on July 7 that Ganapathy, 51, was found hanging from a ceiling fan in his hotel room in Madikeri in Kodagu, his home district. In an interview with a local television channel hours before his death, he had alleged harassment by George and the two senior officers and said he had feared for his life. Although his death triggered public outrage, the local police were reluctant to file an FIR. They did so only after being directed by the magistrate’s court.
Siddaramaiah, who maintained that George’s resignation was voluntary and was done to save the party and the government from embarrassment, wasted no time in re-inducting him. The BJP alleged that George’s quick return and the government’s nod for building a steel flyover in Bengaluru despite opposition from the public were linked. “The six-km-long flyover project costing Rs 1,800 crore is a ploy of the Congress government to raise funds for the upcoming UP and Punjab elections,” said BJP leader S. Suresh Kumar. “We were always opposed to a CID probe and will continue our demand for a CBI inquiry. We oppose George’s re-induction,” said Madikeri MLA Appachu Ranjan of the BJP. The Janata Dal (Secular), which had handheld Ganapathy’s family to file the private complaint, has, however, distanced itself from the case.
The poor handling of the case is likely to hit the Congress, especially in the Kodagu region, when Karnataka goes to the polls in 2018. The Kodava Federation has joined the chorus for a fair probe and has opposed George’s re-induction.
Kushalappa said his son could not have committed suicide. “I suspect foul play as two rounds of bullets were fired from his service revolver in the room where he was found hanging. And what happened to his ATM card, phone and laptop?” he asked. Machaiah said that though Ganapathy’s body was found hanging, his feet were hardly two inches above the ground and his hands were in a relaxed state. “But the police did not record all these and we have not yet seen the postmortem examination report.”
The family members said the CID took their statements in a hurry. “When we told them that we were not done with the statement, they promised to come back, but never turned up,” said Machaiah. The family also challenged the depression theory floated by the police. Ganapathy’s sister Sabitha said her brother’s prescriptions and medications clearly showed that he was not depressed, but was being treated for memory enhancement. “But the CID has carefully chosen the words while recording the statements of doctors to make it a case of depression.”
Pavanchandra Shetty, the family’s lawyer, said although Ganapathy had raised a specific allegation, the chief minister stood for the accused. “The state is always for prosecution and not the accused. Even the mahazar was not satisfactory. The report filed by the CID is silent on crucial issues like the death note,” he said.
While the CID report said the accused had facilitated Ganapathy’s promotion, the family alleged that he faced harassment after the Congress came to power. “The church attacks in 2008 [in southern Karnataka] marked the beginning of my brother’s troubles,” said Machaiah. “He had booked 144 Christians for rioting and stone pelting. George summoned my brother as soon as he became home minister and asked him to drop the cases. When my brother refused, saying he had evidence against the accused, George took it personally. The senior officers harassed him and efforts were made to frame him in false cases and to reopen an old fake encounter case in which he had been given a clean chit,” he said.
The family has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking his intervention to hand over the case to an independent agency and to direct BJP leaders from Karnataka to extend their support to take the legal battle to a logical end. “Rumours of an out-of-court settlement have hurt us,” said Machaiah. “We have got overwhelming support from the political parties and people alike in our pursuit of justice.”