Ex-DCP sent to judicial custody in Telangana phone-tapping case

Hyderabad Desk

Hyderabad: A Hyderabad court on Friday sent Telangana Police’s former Deputy Commissioner of Police, Task Force, Radha Kishan Rao, to 14 days of judicial custody in the phone-tapping case.

After questioning him since Thursday, the police produced him before a magistrate at his residence on Friday evening.

The official, who worked as an officer on special duty (OSD) in the Task Force following his retirement, appeared before investigators on Thursday after a look-out circular was issued against him as a suspect.

Kishan Rao was grilled for several hours at Banjara Hills Police Station along with Gattu Mallu, a Circle Inspector, who worked under his supervision.

The former DCP is the fourth police officer to be arrested in the case of the phone-tapping of opposition leaders and businessmen during the previous Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) government in Telangana.

During the recent Assembly elections, Kishan Rao was shunted out of his post by the Election Commission.

As the OSD, he was allegedly taking action in the field based on the phone interceptions by the Special Intelligence Bureau (SIB) against opposition leaders.

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The phone-tapping matter came to light with the arrest of DSP, SIB, D. Praneeth Rao.

He was suspended and arrested on March 13 for destroying evidence. He had allegedly erased data by destroying 50 hard disks after the defeat of the BRS in Assembly elections. The arrest was made on a complaint by ASP, SIB, D. Ramesh, on March 10, alleging clandestine monitoring of individuals, unauthorised access to official records, and misuse of intelligence information.

During the questioning of Praneeth Rao by the SIT, names of other officers allegedly involved in the case surfaced.

Based on the information gathered during Praneeth Rao’s questioning, police carried out searches at the premises of other officials including former Special Intelligence Bureau (SIB) chief Prabhakar Rao, who was allegedly supervising the entire operation.

As Prabhakar Rao and Kishan Rao were not available, police served look-out circulars. While Kishan Rao appeared before investigators on Thursday, Prabhakar Rao reportedly reached out to the probe team saying he was in the US for medical treatment and would be in touch with the investigating officer.

Additional Superintendent of Police, Bhupalpally, N. Bhujanga Rao, and Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police, City Security Wing, Hyderabad city police, Tirupathanna, were arrested in the same case on March 23. The next day, a court sent them to judicial custody.

They had earlier served as Deputy Superintendents of Police in the SIB. The officials were booked under the Indian Penal Code’s (IPC) section 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant) and section 70 of the Information Technology Act.

On March 28, the Nampally court sent the duo to police custody for five days. The probe team on Friday started questioning them. The officials are suspected to have been involved in illegally recording phone conversations and using the audio clips to extort money from businessmen.

The SIT is also mulling to summon some key BRS leaders for questioning in the phone-tapping case. It was at their direction that the accused allegedly tapped the phones of leaders of opposition parties.

SIB is an anti-Maoist intelligence unit but Praneeth Rao was tasked with the job of gathering political intelligence along with a 10-member team. He was allegedly keeping tabs on the opposition leaders and directly reporting to Prabhakar Rao.

Prabhakar Rao, considered close to then Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, resigned as SIB chief after the Congress party came to power.

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