Above: MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan (file picture). Photo: UNI
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Tuesday (October 31) surprisingly gave a clean chit to Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan in the multi-crore Vyapam scam which has so far claimed 49 lives. The CBI on Tuesday filed a chargesheet in a special CBI court in Bhopal against 490 accused including three Vyapam officials, three racketeers, 17 middlemen, 297 ‘solver and beneficiary’ candidates and 170 guardians of the beneficiary candidates.
Apart from CBI giving clean chit to Chouhan, the other interesting turn in the case is that the fire has now turned to Congress leader Digvijay Singh because it was Singh and the Vyapam scam whistleblower Prashant Pandey who had alleged tampering of hard disk seized in the case to remove Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s name. The CBI has claimed that “there is no grain of truth in the allegation that the hard disk drive seized on July 18, 2013 from the office of then Principal System Analyst, Vyapam (key scam accused Nitin Mohindra) was tampered”. With CBI’s clean chit, the BJP and Chouhan have got some breathing space. Digvijaya Singh and Prashant Pandey, now fear prosecution for tampering of evidence besides a possible defamation charge from Chouhan and BJP. The state BJP chief Nandkumar Singh Chauhan has already said that relevant legal proceedings will be taken against Singh and Pandey.
At the core of the CBI’s clean chit is the hard disk that it seized from the office of Nitin Mohindra, a Vyapam official and the pen drives that was provided to the agency by Digvijaya Singh and Prashant Pandey. However, the agency has informed the special CBI court that “during investigation, image of the seized HDD in question along with 2 other HDDs, which was in the custody of the trial court, was got prepared through the experts of Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL), Hyderabad and were forwarded to CFSL for analysis and examination (sic)”.
The CBI says further that the “two pen drives, one kept in custody of the… High Court of Delhi filed by the private person (Prashant Pandey) and the other submitted by him to CBI in a sealed cover were also sent to CFSL, Hyderabad… The pen drives as per the claims… contained the tampered and untampered versions of the impugned excel file. CFSL examined these HDDs and the two pen drives and submitted seven reports to CBI. As per the CFSL report, the computer with the HDD in question was last shut down on July 15, 2013 and no file on the said HDD was accessed thereafter. All the 5 Excel files in the pen drive provided by Pandey to the Delhi High Court as well as to CBI, containing reference ‘CM’ (chief minister Chouhan) in it, were created or last modified on or after July 18, 2013 as per the report of CFSL whereas the alleged HDD in question was last shut down on July 15, 2013.”
The CBI says: “The pen drive provided by Prashant Pandey… contains false documents created subsequent to seizure of HDD in question.”
However, Prashant Pandey has refuted all the charges. He told APNLive (a sister consent of India Legal): “I copied the excel files from the HDD on the pen drive and that’s why they show a date of creation or modification after July 18. I have not seen the chargesheet filed by the CBI and therefore I am not in a position to comment on it in detail… not a single document provided by me was tampered with.”
The state’s political scenario is in upheaval with the sudden turn of events. The CBI’s chargesheet appears to be a result of a shoddy investigation as it does not mention several senior Vyapam officials under whom the scam took place. The officials who have been named as accused by the CBI— Nitin Mohindra, AK Sen and CK Mishra—are way down in the hierarchy. It also makes no mention of Vyapam director and controller of exams, Pankaj Trivedi. Trivedi was a key accused whose appointment was also done in violation of the existing rules. Trivedi is a close relative of Sudhanshu Trivedi, BJP’s national spokesperson. The agency overlooked the big shots and instead made the students and the racketeers accused in the case.