New Delhi Vyapam scam: Supreme Court transfers case probe to CBI
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court finish the delay over the Vyapam scandal by ordering that all related cases, including the mysterious deaths of about 40 people, should be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation.
It also asked state Governor Ram Naresh Yadav to explain why a first information report (FIR) shouldn’t be filed against him, likely making his position unsafe. The bench headed by Chief Justice of India HL Dattu was devastating about the Madhya Pradesh High Court, which has been monitoring the case to little effect amid a rising toll. It also criticised the high court for not ordering a CBI investigation immediately after the state government said it was not averse to such a probe, and for passing the buck to the apex court on the issue.
The three-member bench said the SC would not tolerate any more deaths. The order came after the Madhya Pradesh government, through Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi, told the Supreme Court that it wanted the investigation into Vyapam and the deaths to be handed over to CBI.
Delhi officials said time seems to be running out for the governos. The Centre had wanted to oust him earlier this year when four new governors were appointed. It didn’t do this as Yadav had suffered bereavement.
Governor Yadav’s son Shailesh, an accused in the Vyapam scam, is one of those who died under suspicious circumstances. A governor enjoys immunity from prosecution under Article 361 of the Constitution for actions while in office. The high court had cited this provision to quash the FIR against Yadav. A complainant in the Vyapam case appealed against the high court order, prompting the top court to issue notices to the state and central governments and the special task force (STF) probing the case. The other two members of the bench are Justices Arun Kumar Mishra and Amitava Roy.
Complainant Sanjay Shukla’s lawyer Kapil Sibal demanded that Yadav quit to protect the dignity of his office. The court declined to say anything on this. But it had harsh words for the high court. “The high court wanted to wash its hands of, not doing anything and lobbing the ball into the Supreme Court,” Dattu observed. CBI will take over the probe from Monday. “We will not allow the number of deaths from 36… 38. Not one more will die,” Dattu said. Some estimates have put the death toll at more than 40.
The top court, however, refused to refer to CBI other complaints in similar cases involving private medical and engineering colleges. Those petitions will be heard separately, the top court said, despite the insistence of senior lawyers Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Prashant Bhushan.
PLEA ON YADAV IN SUSPEND
The apex court also kept in suspense another petition seeking the removal of Yadav from office over his alleged involvement in the scam, which has ballooned into a threat to the position of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, besides denting the image of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. The scam stems from corrupt practices at the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB), also known as the Madhya Pradesh Vyavsayik Pariksha Mandal or Vyapam, over entrance tests conducted by it. These include exams for admission to medical colleges and selection to government jobs.
Copying, leaked papers and the impersonation of candidates are among the ways in which the undeserving are said to have gained selection by paying bribes to officials and touts. While the initial official complaints go back to 2000, the Madhya Pradesh government began looking into the matter in 2009. In 2013, a special task force of the MP police began investigating the matter. Among the 2,000 people arrested over alleged Vyapam links are former Madhya Pradesh education minister Laxmikant Sharma.
In his opening remarks, Sibal said he was “saddened to come to this court with a case in which high dignitaries faced serious allegations… The entire who’s who in the state is involved”.
GOVERNOR IN LIST OF ACCUSED
Sibal said that the state governor figured as number 10 in the list of accused, citing the STF probe so far. The allegation against him was that he provided the names of five persons who got through the examinations conducted by Vyapam through “unfair means”.
Despite STF telling the court that there was “ample evidence to indicate his complicity”, the high court quashed the FIR against him, Sibal argued. “What will be the consequence of this order? No action will be taken for five years. All the evidence will be lost. Nothing will happen.”