A sessions court in Bengaluru Friday granted bail to a key accused and others linked to the private firm Chilume Enterprises in the voter data theft case in the city which has led to a political controversy in Karnataka.
The director of Chilume Enterprises Ravikumar Krishnappa, who is linked to an NGO called the Chilume Educational Cultural and Rural Development Trust and was arrested last month over the illegal collection of voter data in Bengaluru, was granted bail by a sessions court Friday. “The petitioner shall not visit Chilume offices and use any electronic devices in the offices till filing of the charge sheet,” the sessions court noted in its order while granting bail to Krishnappa.
Two other employees associated with the Chilume Group — Dharmesh and Renuka Prasad — were also granted bail. The bail was granted on a surety of Rs 2 lakh each.
Krishnappa and the employees of the firm are accused of fraud, forgery, cheating and impersonation while illegally collecting personal data of voters in assembly constituencies of Bengaluru.
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The officials of Chilume are alleged to have connived with city officials to create fake identity cards of booth-level officers of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike for use by Chilume workers while going house to house to collect voter data under the guise of carrying voter awareness work as dictated by the Election Commission of India.
The sessions court Friday also granted anticipatory bail to four Assistant Revenue Officers of the BBMP in Bengaluru to protect them in the event of their arrest in the voter data theft case. The Bengaluru police have registered two cases of alleged voter data theft.
The four AROs — Chandrashekhar, Bheemashankar B V, Suhel Ahmed, and S Mahesh — had approached the court for anticipatory bail after being quizzed by the police, fearing arrest on the lines of the arrest of four other AROs last month.
Investigations of the voter data theft case in Bengaluru revealed that the Chilume Trust — which was awarded a contract to carry out voter awareness by the BBMP — collected personal information of voters in violation of fundamental rights, the sessions court observed earlier this month while rejecting an anticipatory bail plea of a Chilume official.
“During the course of investigations, it is revealed that the NGO Chilume has collected the personal information and details of the Voters which violates the fundamental right of the person as such the allegation is serious and affects the right of a person who casts his vote,” the court has said last week while rejecting a plea by Kotresh R, a president of the Chilume Trust.
The BJP government in Karnataka led by Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai ordered an investigation on November 17 into the alleged collection of voter data by fraud, impersonation and breach of trust by the Chilume Group after opposition Congress party accused the BJP of being at the centre of efforts to collect data and to manipulate voters’ lists ahead of the 2023 state election.
The Congress has alleged that the Chilume Group is linked to BJP leaders from Bengaluru and that the firm was awarded the voter data collection and awareness work as a part of an exercise to manipulate voter lists in Bengaluru through deletions and additions that favour the ruling dispensation.
The police arrested as many as 10 persons in the case – including Krishnappa and three others from the firm and four BBMP revenue officers for facilitating the fraud.
The police argued during the bail petitions filed by the accused that the allegations against the suspects are serious and that it “affects the state and nation”.
The police have indicated that the Chilume Trust, which has collected personal information of voters, could misuse the data.