Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah has ordered a high-level inquiry into the matter.
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-Amma chief V K Sasikala was being given preferential treatment at a prison in Bengaluru, a top police official has claimed amid a swirling suspicion of payment of Rs 2 crore to the official for it, prompting the government to order a probe into it.
Deputy Inspector of General-Prisons D Roopa made the allegations in a report to her superior Director General of Police-Prisons H S Sathyanarayana Rao.
In a swift response, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah announced a "high-level probe" into the allegations as the two senior officers engaged in a bitter public spat.
In the four-page report after visiting the central prison on July 10, Roopa said a special kitchen was functioning in the central prison for Sasikala, a convict in a corruption case, in violation of the rules.
"There are rumours that the kitchen is continuing to function despite the issue being brought to your (Rao) notice. There is also a talk that Rs 2 crore has been paid as bribe for this.
"As unfortunately these allegations are also against you, it is requested that you look into the matter and take merciless disciplinary action against erroneous officials," Roopa said in the report.
Rao, however, rubbished Roopa's charge against him, terming it "absolutely false, baseless and wild" and said he would take legal recourse against his junior.
He asserted no special treatment was meted out to anybody, adding that even in the matter of visitations, ministers, MPs and MLAs of Tamil Nadu were not being obliged.
Sasikala is lodged at the Parappana Agrahara central jail in Bengaluru ever since her conviction in February in a disproportionate assets case along with her two relatives V N Sudhakaran and Elavarasi, all serving a four year jail term.
Taking "serious cognisance" of the allegations of irregularities in the central prison, Siddaramaiah ordered the probe and warned of "strict action" based on the inquiry report, if anyone was found involved in wrong doing.
"Request all to await the outcome of this inquiry. Strict action will be taken against any person found guilty of wrong doing," he said in a tweet.
Refuting Roopa's allegations at a press conference, Rao said no "undue favour" was being shown to Sasikala.
He said she was taking prison food as other inmates.
"There is no special kitchen. She is like any other prisoner," he said.
The DGP said as a subordinate officer Roopa should have discussed it with him first, including the charges against him.
"I'm open to any investigation. Instead she has gone to media without any evidence," he said.
Rao said he had issued two memos to Roopa for going to the media and posting information on social media (both on other issues) and not attending the chief minster's meeting recently.
"Instead of giving reply to the memos, she has come out with this (allegation)," he said.
Asked if he suspected any conspiracy against him, Rao said, "Maybe, there is some conspiracy. I do not know."
"Instead of attending chief minister's meeting she has gone to prison...who has authorised her. She had to attend the meeting. Instead of giving reply to the memos she has come out with this (allegation)," he said.
In her report, Roopa pointed out various "erroneous" practices in the prison, alleging that ganja was being consumed by several prisoners.
She said during her visit, she conducted drug tests on 25 inmates using drugs test kit and "shockingly" 18 of them turned out to be positive as per doctors.
In the report, she has also mentioned about the 'preferential' treatment being provided to fake stamp paper scam kingpin Abdul Karim Telgi in the prison. Undertrial prisoners in his cell are allegedly being used to do his personal work like pressing his shoulders, arms and legs.
Noting that six months ago there was a court direction to provide Telgi with assistants as he was using a wheelchair, the DIG in her report said though now he was dependant on it and was walking properly, three to four undertrials are still allowed in his cell to do his work.
"I think you too might have seen this on the CCTV installed in your chamber. Allowing undertrials with convicts like Telgi is against the prison rules. Despite knowing this, the superintendent of the jail has not taken any action," she said.
Accusing the DGP of interfering in her functioning, the DIG said she was sent a memo seeking explanation on the very next day of her visit to the prison.
Defending her findings, Roopa told reporters that a copy of the report had been sent to the government, adding, "Let there be a fact-finding inquiry."
Asked about the allegations in her report being based on "rumours," Roopa said, "There are facts which even now can be proved. Let there be an inquiry.
"There is fact and rumour. I have mentioned rumour as a rumour. I have not converted rumour to a fact. I have put it in the report and have given it to the DG himself. He should take it positively," she said when asked if there was truth in the "rumours" mentioned by her in the report.
On DGP's memo about her not attending the CM's meeting, Roopa said she was told by the DG earlier that she need not attend the meeting at DG&IGP office unless there were specific instructions from him, and there was no written or oral orders instructing her to attend the meeting.
"Why would I skip CM's meeting, it's a privilege to attend. I have not been asked to attend," she added.