Sri Lakshmi arrested in illegal mining case

Staff Reporter
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CREST-FALLEN: CBI officials take IAS officer Y. Sri Lakshmi into custody in Hyderabad on Monday. — PHOTO: ARRANGEMENT
CREST-FALLEN: CBI officials take IAS officer Y. Sri Lakshmi into custody in Hyderabad on Monday. — PHOTO: ARRANGEMENT

Senior IAS officer Yerra Sri Lakshmi was finally arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) here on Monday for her role in the illegal iron ore mining case in which former Karnataka Minister Gali Janardhan Reddy is the prime accused.

A sobbing Lakshmi was taken into custody in her office at Koti around 4.30 p.m. and driven straight to the Nampally court where a judge ordered her to be produced in the CBI court on Tuesday. The investigating agency, which had sought 15 days custody, took her to their office, also at Koti, at her instance as she was reluctant to be lodged in the women's police station.

Before arresting her, the CBI officials grilled the 1988-batch IAS officer, now Commissioner of Health & Family Welfare, in her office for alleged criminal breach of trust as a public servant by doing the Obulapuram Mining Company favours in the allotment of iron ore mining lease in the extent of 68.5 hectares at Obulapuram in Anantapur district in her capacity as Secretary, Industries.

Lakshmi is fourth accused to be arrested in the case after Mr. Janardhan Reddy, B.V. Srinivasa Reddy and former Director of Mines V.D. Rajagopal. Her arrest comes barely days before the December 3 deadline for the CBI to file chargesheet in the case. In the past few days, several witnesses, mainly owners of mining companies who were denied leases, had reportedly deposed against her.

In its remand report, the CBI contended that Lakshmi's husband was an IPS officer (M. Gopalakrishna) and could influence the investigation, if she was not given to the custody. She was charged under Sections 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant), 120-B, (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating) and others under which other accused in the case were booked.

Surender Rao, counsel for Lakshmi, filed petitions seeking special class prisoner status in the event of her being remanded to judicial custody and also seeking medical facilities in the remand as she had cardiac problems since 2009.

Lakshmi was hospitalised a couple of times during the last three months, he said.

However, in the absence of CBI Special Court Judge, First Additional Metropolitan Sessions Court Judge Laxmipathi ruled that the accused be produced in the CBI court on Tuesday.

A visibly-shattered Lakshmi pleaded with the court that she wanted to be in the custody facility at the CBI office instead of the police station. She was seen crying in the packed court all the while.

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