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With 700 accused and suspects absconding in this huge job-cum-admission scam and many let off on bail, observers now wait for the CBI to act on the Supreme Court’s order to submit the scam report

By Rakesh Dixit in Bhopal 

Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan is still under the shadow of doubt in the Vyapam scam. Photo: UNI
Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan is still under the shadow of doubt in the Vyapam scam. Photo: UNI

Vyapam is an autonomous body which conducts exams for jobs and admissions in Madhya Pradesh. Around this time last year, the scam involving it was a national outrage. Now, it is a fading memory even in the state where it surfaced. Public anger towards the scam perpetrators has given way to skepticism about the system.

Vyapam exams, incidentally, were conducted by the board for admissions in the state’s medical colleges and jobs in various state government departments. Several hundred students had indulged in unfair means between 2008 and 2012 to get admission in medical colleges in Madhya Pradesh through Vyapam. Their results were cancelled in 2013.

TARDY PROGRESS

However, the progress of investigations has been very slow. While ordering a CBI probe into Vyapam in July last year amid a nationwide uproar over suspicious deaths related to the scam, the Supreme Court had asked the agency to keep it posted about the investigation’s progress. The CBI filed a status report in October last year, two months after it took over the probe from the state government’s Special Task Force (STF). Since then, there have been no other reports despite the Court directing it to do so 10 times. The last time this happened was on August 16. Now the Court has sought a status report in the first week of September.

Despite the Supreme Court directing the CBI to keep it regularly posted on the Vyapam scam, no status report has been filed by it since October last year.

CBI sources say they have not much to show to the Court by way of progress so far. But, they said the next status report could bring media focus back on the probe. The agency has reportedly planned to incorporate the report of the Truth Laboratory, Hyderabad, about the veracity of the Congress allegation that chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had manipulated the results of a contract teacher examination conducted by the Vyapam in 2012.

Vyapam chief system analyst Nitin Mahindra is still under investigation
Vyapam chief system analyst Nitin Mahindra is still under investigation

The Congress had submitted a pen drive which allegedly contained entries of Chouhan’s name as a recommender against 40 candidates in an excel sheet. The excel sheet was retrieved from the hard disk of the computer of then Vyapam chief analyst Nitin Mahindra. Although the Madhya Pradesh High Court had rejected the excel sheet as forged, the CBI reinvestigated it after whistleblower Prashant Pandey, who had procured it, submitted an affidavit before it. Subsequently, the pen drive was sent to the Hyderabad lab for testing.

In the last one year, MP’s courts have granted bail to around 90 percent of the accused or suspects in the Vyapam scam, including the main accused.

It was this pen drive which mainly triggered the demand for a CBI probe into the scam. The Congress alleged that the STF was saving the CM in the scam by ignoring crucial evidence against him. Chouhan stonewalled the probe demand till the apex court took cognizance of the massive row surrounding the Vyapam deaths and asked the CBI to take up the investigation.

FRESH PETITION

Whistleblower Dr Anand Rai is disappointed over the tardy pace of Vyapam investigation and said he would soon file a fresh petition in the Supreme Court requesting it to direct the CBI to expedite the probe. Meanwhile, Congress leaders are keeping their fingers crossed so that the probe moves fast.   

Vyapam scam whistleblowers Prashant Pandey (left) and Dr Anand Rai
Vyapam scam whistleblowers Prashant Pandey (left) and Dr Anand Rai

One of the reasons for the people of MP losing interest in this scam is that despite the prompt action of the police, the accused were let off in recent months on bail without charge-sheets being filed against them. Many, such as former ministers and mining baron Sudhir Sharma, returned from the Bhopal central jail to a hero’s welcome by their supporters.

Another factor is the daunting legal complexity of this scam. This was evident from the fact that the CBI registered 155 FIRs and filed only 14 charge-sheets in the last one year. With the courts having granted bail to a majority of the accused, the CBI’s task has become more difficult. Each of these cases involves an average of 20 accused.

(L-R) Congress leader Sanjeev Saxena; Mining baron Sudhir Sharma; former MP minister Laxmikant Sharma (photo: UNI) are all out on bail
(L-R) Congress leader Sanjeev Saxena; Mining baron Sudhir Sharma and former MP minister Laxmikant Sharma (photo: UNI) are all out on bail

Of the total 2,700 accused and suspects identified so far, nearly 700 are absconding. In many cases, those let off on bail will have to be re-arrested by the CBI for further investigation before fresh FIRs can be filed against them. Producing charge-sheets against the accused in courts is agonisingly slow. Court verdicts on them will have to wait many more years.

NUMEROUS BAILS

Vyapam examination controller Pankaj Trivedi
Vyapam examination controller Pankaj Trivedi

In the last one year, MP’s courts have granted bail to around 90 percent of the accused or suspects linked with the scam. They include politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, bogus job aspirants, medical students, their parents, inter-state job racketeers, education mafia and middlemen. The main conspirators—Vyapam examination controller Pankaj Trivedi and chief system analyst Nitin Mahindra—got bail in around a dozen cases in July. And on August 6, the Gwalior bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court granted bail to the last of the main accused in the scam, Dr Jagdish Sagar, with four others, while invoking Article 21 of the constitution that guarantees a citizen right to life and personal liberty.

So far, a court verdict has come in only one of the Vyapam cases. In December last year, an Indore court sentenced two persons to three years rigorous imprisonment for cheating and forgery during an entrance examination in the veterinary department conducted in 2013. The court found the duo guilty under Sections 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) and 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating) and under relevant sections of the MP Recognized Examination Act.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on July 27 asked the CBI to take up 634 bogus admission cases in medical colleges that allegedly took place between 2008 and 2011. CBI sources say an acute staff crunch coupled with the huge burden of Vyapam cases has encumbered investigation.

Lead pictures: (Left) Vyapam Building. (Right) Members of All India Mahila Congress burning MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s effigy at a demonstration in Bhopal. Photo: UNI

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