No bail for a year in MBBS Entrance Examination case for high profile undertrial: Apex Court order

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pebNew Delhi, Feb. 4: A two-Judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel today set aside an appeal by Dr. Vinod Bhandari, the Managing Director of Shri Aurobindo Institute of Medical Sciences (S.A.I.M.S), who had challenged a Jabalpur High Court order dismissing his bail application.

Dr. Bhandari is now in judicial custody in a case linked with the massive Madhya Pradesh Vyavsayik Pareeksha Mandal (M.P. Professional Examination Board) scam.

The Supreme Court has said in its order: “Undoubtedly, the offence alleged against the appellant has serious adverse impact on the fabric of the society. The offence is of high magnitude indicating illegal admission to large number of undeserving candidates to the medical courses by corrupt means. Apart from showing depravity of character and generation of black money, the offence has the potential of undermining the trust of the people in the integrity of medical profession itself, the Supreme Court order says.It goes on to add: “If undeserving candidates are admitted to medical courses by corrupt means, not only the society will be deprived of the best brains treating the patients, the patients will be faced with undeserving and corrupt persons treating them in whom they will find it difficult to repose faith. In these circumstances, when the allegations are supported by material on record and there is a potential of trial being adversely influenced by grant of bail, seriously jeopardising the interest of justice, we do not find any ground to interfere with the view taken by the trial Court and the High Court in declining bail.

It is certainly a matter of serious concern that the appellant has been in custody for about one year and there is no prospect of immediate trial. When a person is kept in custody to facilitate a fair trial and in the interest of the society, it is duty of the prosecution and the Court to take all possible steps to expedite the trial. Speedy trial is a right of the accused and is also in the interest of justice. We are thus, of the opinion that the prosecution and the trial Court must ensure speedy trial so that right of the accused is protected. This Court has already directed that the investigation be finally completed and final charge sheet filed on or before March 15, 2015. We have also been informed that a special prosecutor has been appointed and the matter is being tried before a Special Court. The High Court is monitoring the matter.

We expect that in these circumstances, the aoex court order says adding the trial will proceed day to day and its progress will be duly monitored. Material witnesses may be identified and examined at the earliest. Having regard to special features of this case, we request the High Court to take up the matter once in three months to take stock of the progress of trial and to issue such directions as may be necessary. We also direct that if the trial is not completed within one year from today for reasons not attributable to the appellant, the appellant will be entitled to apply for bail afresh to the High Court which may be considered in the light of the situation which may be then prevailing.
M.P. Professional Examination Board known as Vyapam conducts various tests for admission to professional courses and streams. It is a statutory body constituted under the provisions of M.P. Professional Examination Board Act, 2007.

As per FIR No.12 of 2013 registered on October 30, 2013 ((Digitally signed by Mahabir Singh Date: 2015.02.04) at police station, S.T.F., Bhopal under Sections 420, 467, 468, 471, 120B of the Indian Penal Code (“IPC”) read with Section 3(d), 1, 2/4 of the Madhya Pradesh Manyata Prapt Pariksha Adhiniyam, 1937 and under Sections 65 and 66 of the I.T. Act, Shri D.S. Baghel, DSP (STF), M.P. Police Headquarters, Bhopal during the investigation of another case found that copying was arranged in PMT Examination, 2012 at the instance of concerned officers of the Vyapam and middlemen who for monetary consideration helped the undeserving students to pass the entrance examination to get admission to the M.B.B.S course in Government and Private Medical Colleges in the State of M.P. As per the material collected during investigation, in pursuance of conspiracy, the appellant Dr. Vinod Bhandari, allegedly received money from the candidates through co-accused Pradeep Raghuvanshi who was working in Bhandari Hospital & Research Centre, Indore as General Manager and who was also looking after the admissions and management work of Shri Aurbindo Institute of Medical Sciences, Indore, for arranging the undeserving candidates to pass through the MBBS Entrance Examination by unfair means. He gave part of the money to Nitin Mohindra, Senior Systems Analyst in Vyapam, who was the custodian of the model answer key, along with Dr. Pankaj Trivedi, Controller of Vyapam. During investigation, disclosure statement was made by Pradeep Raghuvanshiwhich led to the recovery of money and documents. The candidates, their guardians, some officers of the Vyapam and middlemen were found to be involved in the scam. It appears that there are in all 516 accused out of which 329 persons have been arrested and 187 are due to be arrested. Substantial investigation has been completed and charge sheets filed but certain aspects are still being investigated and as per direction of this Court in a Petition for Special Leave to Appeal….No.16456 of 2014 titled “Ajay Dubey versus State of M.P. & Ors.”, final charge sheet is to be filed by the Special Task Force on or before March 15, 2015 against the remaining accused.

Allegations also include that some high scorer candidates were arranged in the examination centre who could give correct answers and the candidates who paid money were permitted to do the copying. Other modus operandi adopted was to leave the OMR sheets blank which blank sheets were later filled up with the correct answers by the corrupt officers of Vyapam. Further, the model answer key was copied and made available to concerned candidates one night before the examination. Each candidate paid few lakhs of rupees to the middlemen and the money was shared by the
middlemen with the officers of the Vyapam. The appellant received few crores of rupees in the process from undeserving candidates to get admission to the M.B.B.S. and, as per allegation in the other connected matter, i.e., FIR No.14 of 2013 registered on 20 th November, 2013 with the same police station, to the PG medical courses.

In the present case, the appellant was arrested on January 30, 2014 while in the other FIR he was granted anticipatory bail on January 16, 2014. Second Bail application of the appellant in the present case was considered by the 9th Additional Sessions Judge, Bhopal and dismissed on May 9, 2014. Earlier, first bail application had been dismissed on February 5, 2014. While declining prayer for bail, it was, observed :

In the present case, it is alleged against the
accused that he in connivance with the officers of
coordinator State level institution (VYAPAM) in
lieu of huge amount got the candidates selected
in the examination after getting them passed in
the Pre-Medical Test (PMT) Examination, which is
mandatory and important for admission in the
medical education institution. According to the
prosecution, applicant snatched right of
deserving and scholar students, he got selected
ineligible candidates in the field of medical
education. This case is not only related to
economic offence, rather apart from depriving
rights of deserving and scholar students, it is
related to the human life and health.

The Division Bench of the High Court, in its Order, referred to the supplementary challan filed against the appellant on April 24, 2014, indicating the following material :

Offence of the accused :
The accused Dr. Vinod Bhandari has been the
Managing Director of S.A.I.M.S., Indore and prior
to the P.M.T. Examination 2012 he had in
collusion with Nitin Mohindra, Senior System
Analyst of Vyapam, for getting some of his
candidates passed in the P.M.T. Examination,
2012 and stating to send list of his candidates
and cash amount through his General Manager
Pradeep Raghuvanshi, subsequently he sent list
of his 08 candidates and 60 lakh rupees in cash
through his General Manager and 07 candidates
out of aforesaid candidates were got passed by
using unfair means with the connivance of Nitin
Mohindra by way of filling up the circles in their
O.M.R. sheets and received the amount in
illegally manner by hatching conspiracy which
has been recovered/seized from his General
Manager Pradeep Raghuvanshi. In this manner,
the accused has committed a serious crime in
well designed conspiracy by hatching conspiracy
and committed organized crime.

Disposing the appeal the Supreme Court has made it clear that observations in judgment will not be treated as expression of any opinion on merits of the case and the trial Court can decide the matter without being influenced by any such observation.

 

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