MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan buckles under pressure, agrees to hand over Vyapam case to CBI
Bhopal: After more than three dozen accused, witnesses, including two medical college deans have died under mysterious circumstances, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan today buckled under pressure from the media and the main Opposition Congress and announced the decision to transfer to the Central Bureau of Investigation the Vyapam Scam case linked with massive irregularities in conducting successive medical entrance examinations and recruitment of contractual teachers, transport department staff and other employees by the State Professional Examination Board (also called Vyapam) over a prolonged period.
The Chief Minister told media-persons here today that the State Government will be requesting the Jabalpur High Court to transfer the Vyapam case to the CBI as a Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the High Court is monitoring the case being investigated and handled by the Special task Force (STF) of State Police.
Ahead of this announcement, Union Minister and firebrand BJP leader Uma Bharti even went to the extent of saying that she was scared by the deaths being linked to the Vyapam scam.
Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh responded by saying that sense has finally prevailed upon and after much delay he has agreed to hand over the Vyapam case to the CBI. He said that a case in this regard is coming before the Supreme Ciurt on July 9 when the apex court would be urged to appoint an SIT to monitor investigations by the CBI. They would also request the Supreme Court to ensure that the SIT reports the progress of the case to the Court on a weekly basis.
Singh has gone to the Supreme Court seeking that both the SIT report and the April 24 High Court order be quashed as the SIT report relies entirely on a demonstration given by STF. It is Singh’s contention that SIT is “ill-equipped and ill-trained to handle the nuances of digital forensics”.
Close to 2000 accused, including former State Minister Laxmikant Sharma, a former examination controller of PEB, an OSD to state Governor Ram Naresh Yadav and a mining baron and ex-BJP functionary have been arrested in this case.
The Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (PEB) scam had hit the roof in December 2013 after the Special task Force (STF) of state police had registered two separate FIRs against Laxmikant Sharma, the minister for Public Relations and Higher Education in the earlier (2008-13) Shivraj Singh Chouhan led State BJP Government along with some PEB officers and more than 120 examinees under various sections of IPC covering forgery and criminal conspiracy to manipulate results for recruitment of contractual teachers.
In December 2013, Uma Bharti had also raised the demand for a CBI probe into the series of frauds linked with the Vyapam scam. After a section of media had reorted last December about Ms. Bharti’s alleged involvement in the PEB scam, the BJP leader had described this as a conspiracy against her. After that the then state director general of Police Nandan Dube himself drove to Ms. Bharti’s residence. Following this meeting, she had told media-persons that the state police chief told her that the police had nothing to ask her regarding the PEB scam.
Sharma was state minister for Technical Education & Training, Higher Education, Culture, Public Relation, Religious Trusts and Endowments in the Shivraj Singh Chouhan led state BJP government (2008-13). He was arrested after he failed to retain his Sironj Assembly seat in Vidisha district in the 2013 Assembly election.
Also arrested in connection with contractual teachers’ appointment eligibility exam conducted by Vyapam is O.P. Shukla, who was earlier posted as officer on special duty to Mr. Sharma when he was a state minister, OSD to Governor Dhanraj Yadav, former Vyapam controller exams Pankaj Trivedi, examination in-charge C K Mishra, principal system analyst Nitin Mahindra, and senior system analyst Ajay Sen.
Prominent among the accused who have been arrested are also the PMT scam mastermind Dr Jagdish Sagar, PEB officials Ajay Singh, and Chandra Kant Mishra besides a number of students, for whom dummy candidates were allowed to appear in the pre-medical test conducted by the state PEB, and their parents.
On April 24 this year, the Jabalpur High Court division bench of Chief Justice Ajay Khanvilkar and Justice Alok Aradhe accepted the report of the Madhya Pradesh Police SIT that points out that the Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh had submitted forged evidence provided by the whistle blower Prashant Pandey to implicate the chief minister in the State Professional Examination Board scam. Singh earlier had submitted to SIT an affidavit backed by some top Supreme Court lawyers accusing the chief minister and his family of involvement in the PEB scam. The Congress General Secretary had alleged that an excel sheet prepared from the duplicate of the hard disc recovered from the PEB examination Controller’s computer, which had been taken on record by the SIT, had been tampered with and fudged by the SIT to protect the chief minister.
Earlier this year, Madhya Pradesh Governor Ram Naresh Yadav started facing the heat and pressure began mounting on him to resign after his son Shailesh Yadav’s name got linked with the massive scam. Shailesh later died at his residence in Lucknow under mysterious circumstances. In the meanwhile, on 24 February 2015, an FIR was also registered against the state Governor but this was withdrawn on High Court orders on the basis of constitutional immunity enjoyed by Governors.
On 25 July 2014 high-profile mining baron and a close associate of some top state BJP leaders Sudheer Sharma, who was a prime accused in the Vyapam fraud case and was absconding was arersted after he surrendered in a local court here. On 21 June, a Bhopal court had issued a lookout notice for Sharma. The STF had also announced a Rs. 5000 award on him.
The Congress has expressed no-confidence in the STF and continued to demand that the Vyapam case be handed over to the CBI as many top ruling party leaders were facing allegations and the PEB scam and there was also an inter-state angle.
In the first week of December 2014, Digvijay Singh had written to Justice Chandresh Bhushan, Chairperson of Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted for the Vyapam Scam pointing out that not a single offence under Prevention of Corruption Act against any person has been made out in the charge sheet filed by the Special Task Force of State Police in numerous cases linked with examinations conducted by VYAPAM for recruitment of Dairy, Transport department employees and patwaris.
Singh had pointed out that the STF had not conducted even a preliminary inquiry for registering FIR although complaints of bungling in examinations had been reaching the government agencies and STF from the public at large on a regular basis.
Singh had also put the STF in the dock earlier this year by asserting that till now the STF had not provided the complete excel sheet retrieved from the hard disk seized during investigation to any authority or court and only part of the excel sheet has been released at the time of filing the charge sheet. singh had also raised another crucial point. He had pointed out that the STF had failed to look into the aspect of larger conspiracy linked with the policy decision taken at the highest level to transfer recruitment and appointment in the State government to Vyapam in 2007.