NGO or private company? Cops investigating voter data theft case seek Chilume registration data

Cops raided Chilume Enterprises in Malleswaram and three other offices, but not Chilume Trust situated in Dabaspet, Nelamangala

ByBellie Thomas

Published Dec 08, 2022 | 4:04 AM Updated Dec 08, 2022 | 12:12 PM

Voter Data Theft Scam Representational Photo

The Halasuru Gate police, investigating the voter data theft case in Bengaluru, have a basic question to ask: Is Chilume — the firm that is accused of collecting voter data illegally — an NGO or a private company?

Hoping to get answers to this very question, the investigating team on Wednesday, 7 December, sought documents of registration and other certificates to ascertain the registration status of the Chilume (Educational Cultural and Rural Development) Trust.

“Preliminary inquiries revealed that the trust has its registered office at the Kallanayakanahalli village in Dabaspet, Sompura Hobli, in the Nelamangala Taluk in the Rural Bengaluru district,” said a senior police officer, adding that the documents were yet to be scrutinised.

Chilume’s identity as an NGO has been called into question to see if rules were violated to allow a corporate private entity to carry out a voter awareness drive, which is the exclusive domain of NGOs.

While the officer said that Chilume Enterprises was registered as a private limited company in Malleswaram in Bengaluru, and also as a trust in Dabaspet in Nelamangala taluk, which is not illegal, he did not have an answer when asked why raids were not conducted at that office in Dabaspet.

Related: 3 BBMP officers suspended over voter data theft; more fear action

However, defending the police’s action, he said Chilume Trust staffers for their activities in Bengaluru had opened smaller offices in Chickpet, Mahadevapura, and Basavanagudi along with a main office in Malleswaram. All those offices were raided in November soon after the voter-data-theft scam came to light.

Congress leaders filed a complaint on the voters data theft scam with the Chief Electoral Officer of the State Election Commission on Saturday

Congress leaders filed a complaint on the voters data theft scam with the Chief Electoral Officer of the State Election Commission on Saturday. (Sourced)

However, the Chilume Trust could have more documents if it had been into similar illegal work like this in the past.

The city police conducted the raids and claimed to have seized a money-counting machine along with letterheads and cheques belonging to a minister and BJP MLA who is also a former deputy chief minister.

There were also envelopes with the MLA’s name and address, as well as other gadgets such as printers, but all these were from a registered private company, Chilume, and not from the trust office, which did not get raided.

When South First asked DCP (Central Division) Srinivas Gowda if the police would register a separate case of impersonation if the investigation revealed it was Chelume Enterprises (Private Company Limited) that carried out the voters’ data gathering from assembly constituencies, the DCP said.

“We will not be taking up a suo motu case, but if someone comes up with a complaint, we will certainly file a case and investigate it. As of now, we are investigating the two cases registered with the Halasuru Gate and the Kadudogi police,” Gowda said.

Related: Chilume NGO founder-director Krishnappa Ravikumar arrested

Interrogations continue

Meanwhile, suspended BBMP top official IAS Rangappa S on Wednesday appeared before the Investigating Officer (IO) for questioning after he was issued a police notice in connection with the case.

Rangappa S and Srinivas K. (Sourced)

Rangappa S and Srinivas K. (Sourced)

This is the second time Rangappa appeared before the Halasuru Gate cops with requisite documentation after his first session of questioning on Saturday.

However, another suspended IAS officer from BBMP, Srinivas K, who presented before the cops on Saturday, failed to attend for questioning on Wednesday citing ill health.

“He (Srinivas K) has sought two days’ time to be present before the IO for the notice that we have sent him,” Srinivas Gowda told South First.

Suspended IAS officer Rangappa in his statement to the police explained his duty’s boundaries and jurisdiction with supporting documents.

“Rangappa submitted documentation in support of his role as a BBMP’s special commissioner (administration) and his jurisdictions along with duty responsibilities, conferred powers and decision-making boundaries,” said a senior police officer who questioned the IAS officer.

Arrests cross dozen mark

So far, the total number of arrests in the case has risen to 13. Nine people — including two founders and directors of Chilume Educational Cultural and Rural Development Trust — have been arrested along with four BBMP revenue officials.

The BBMP officials are Chandrashekar K from Mahadevapura, Suhail Ahmed from Shivajinagar, Bheemashankar from Chickpet, and Mahesh from Rajarajeshwari Nagar.

Founder and director Ravikumar Krishnappa was arrested on 20 November, while his brother Kempegowda, a co-founder of Chilume, was arrested earlier.

Prajwal B, a software developer who was the project’s executive and developed an app named Digital Samviksha — into which the field surveyors would key in the voters’s data — was also arrested, the police said.

The others from Chilume who have been arrested are accountant Lokesh, HR manager Dharmesh, and senior field managers Renuka Prasad, Anil Kumar, Abhishek, and Maruthi Gowda.

The investigating officials have also compiled all the electronic data they have collected so far from the accused and have given it for technical analysis.