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Fresh Loopholes Ahead as Vyapam Investigation Rerouted

The first complaint in Vyapam scam was registered in 2009 following the leaking of medical exam paper. Even after ten years of filing the first complaint, the output of investigation looks hollow.
Special Task Force is set to investigate Vyapam afresh following the change in the political compass in Madhya Pradesh

Image courtesy: NDTV

“The cases related to 2012 exams are being investigated by CBI (Central Bureau of Investigations). But those related to 2013 exams are yet to see light of the day,” says Dr. Anand Rai, a key whistle-blower in the Vyapam mega scam in Madhya Pradesh.

Rai will be registering his statements with the Special Task Force on August 28, as the STF under the current Kamal Nath government in Madhya Pradehs has been directed to re-open the Vyapam files. According to the letter received by Rai, he has been asked to bring the documents and the information accessed through RTI or by other means. “We are closely watching STF’s course of action. We will decide depending on that,” says Rai. With Rai, Ashish Kumar Chaturvedi and Prashant Pandey are fighting to validate some 250 FIRs in the Vyapam scam. They allege that only one out of ten ‘middle-men’ was tried in cases associated with fifty-five exams conducted under Jagdish Sagar Vyapam.

So far, the massive fraud in 13 different entrance and recruitment exams conducted by the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB) or Madhya Pradesh Vyavsayik Pariksha Mandal (Vyapam) has been unearthed by whistle-blowers and journalists. As the mega scam unfolded, some 23 people related to Vyapam scam died in unnatural scenario according to the SIT’s 2015 list. Unofficial count is estimated to be double of the official figure.

The first complaint in Vyapam scam was registered in 2009 following the leaking of medical exam paper. Even after ten years of filing the first complaint, the output of investigation looks hollow.

Also read: MP: Congress Govt to Launch Fresh Probe in Vyapam Scam, Constitutes Review Committee

The whistle-blowers fought long battles to get the STF and [later] CBI to investigate the cases. However, the probes by STF and CBI under the previous state government of Bharatiya Janata Party were perceived as largely unsatisfactory. CBI inferred from Supreme Court’s order that it was given the responsibility to only investigate those FIRs for which challans were not launched. CBI has shown sheer disinterest in investigating Vyapam cases, the reason being cited that Vyapam cases are relatively much heavier for the limited workforce the investigating body possesses.

Whistle-blower Ashish Kumar Chaturvedi says that he approached CBI multiple times for submitting important documents in cases apart from those 185 FIRs being reinvestigated by CBI, but the agency declined to collect them. He believes that “CBI has been reduced to a copy and paste bureau”. “Instead of reinvestigating, CBI takes most of the content from SIT’s entries,” says Ashish.

Ashish recorded statements before the STF on August 19. “Whoever investigates it is not an issue. The problem is the partiality shown by the agency under the influence of politicians,” continues Ashish, “and it can’t be ruled out that people with muscle and money are yet to be brought to justice.”

Ashish tells NewsClick that the state-level politicians two years ago threatened the CBI Inspector Harish Goyal, who was investigating the case in which he was a witness.

It has also been found that Suresh Bhadoria, a prime accused in Vyapam and the director of Index Medical College was immediately shifted from Hamidia Hospital to CHL Hospital, a corporate hospital based in Indore, on August 8 on the orders of Bhopal Jail Superintendent. This was done after the dean of Gandhi Medical College wrote to Jail Administration to transfer the accused to the private hospital on August 7, referring to a judgment of High Court. It is found that Bhadoria’s home and business are based in Indore. This leniency towards Bhadoria, in fact, is one of many lavishing attentions the accused of Vyapam received.

Also watch: Farzi: Decoding Vyapam Scam

The CBI Court was informed only on August 10. Justice Ajay Shrivastva, a special judge of CBI court, expressed his displeasure over the matter. The judge wrote to the superintendent, “How could you shift the accused without permission of the court?... In what circumstances was this step taken?... Jail Superintendent has not provided any document supporting that the medical treatment of Bhadoria was not possible in Bhopal.” Justice Shrivastava has warned superintendent of legal action and asked him to appear before the court on August 31. On these premises, Anand Rai, accuses CBI of adopting double standard, “This person [referring to Bhadoria] was untraceable for more than fifteen months. CBI did not jump any wall to capture him. Now, he is running his two medical colleges and illegal business from the air-conditioned room of a 5-star hospital.” Fugitive Bhadoria had surrendered in the court fearing the attachment procedure after the challan was generated against 592 accused on November 23, 2017. Since then, Bhadoria has been playing various tactics to avoid punishment.

“People like Bhadoria will continue to enjoy favour irrespective of the people in political power,” says Ashish.

Whistle-blowers have been unanimously saying that they “want those to be convicted who benefited commercially from this multi-layered scam.” The prime objective of whistle-blowers this time is to get the kingpins convicted, not the students or parents. Anand Rai is concerned as Shivraj Singh Chouhan, then CM of Madhya Pradesh, has not been charge sheeted. “How was it possible to execute such a massive scandal without the consent of the Chief Minister…,” adds Rai while saying that a person in Indore privately kept an MS Excel file with CM’s name on it, last edited as CFSL on July 18, 2013, but seizure of the electronic evidence took place in a different city [Bhopal].

CBI, in April 2018, removed the accused Arun Kumar Nimawat’s name from the STF’s FIR, arguing that they could not find enough evidence against Nimawat. STF further accused CBI of not investigating the money trail and call detail records (CDRs) in detail. Such mysterious omissions of credible evidences, too, have enfeebled the investigation.

The hard disks confiscated from the houses of prime accused Dr. Jagdish Sagar and Sudhir Rai by Crime Branch went missing in 2018 as the investigators hinted about the hard disk containing several names involved in the admission racket. Sources told NewsClick that the laptop disappeared from the office of a senior officer of Crime Branch as the questions about the hard disks had heated up the investigation row. The case of missing laptop was secretly registered in Chhoti Gwaltoli police station of Indore. It is alleged that the laptop was willingly destroyed by the ‘insiders’ to get rid of the evidence before it could be sent for forensic analysis.

Crime Branch while raiding the residence of lynchpin Dr. Jagdish Sagar for the second time had found a diary, however, it was allegedly not taken seriously despite it contained some information about the Public Service Commission (PSC) and Engineering entrance related money exchanges. Sagar had contested and lost the recent Assembly election from Gohar constituency on Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) ticket.

An investigation by NewsClick revealed that the evidences, i.e. the bank passbook of Crime Branch, seized during the search of the house of Santosh Gupta in Jabalpur and Rs. 50 lakh in cash confiscated from the residence of Santoh’s friend in 2013, were allegedly not maintained and mentioned while the investigating agency handling the case kept changing. High Court in Indore ended up giving a clean chit to Santosh Gupta as the investigating bodies failed to build a strong case against Santosh Gupta. Moreover, CBI was just relying on the statements of another accused Abhinav Katare to convict Gupta.

Gwalior-based Ashish Kumar Chaturvedi also accuses the previous state government of violating his right to privacy. Two years ago, Ashish was allegedly put on surveillance by unknown people in the police department of Madhya Pradesh. When Ashish filed an RTI query with the State Information Commission to find out who ordered his security guards to record videos of him, there was no response from the police. While the issue was said to be investigated by several police officials, they have failed to reach a conclusion. Ashish is yet to know the truth behind this snooping.

Ashish told NewsClick that he recently found the critical documents related to Vyapam missing from the case file in a public office. He quickly registered a complaint at the Jhansi Road Police Station. “People from Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and Judiciary are under the radar of scam. It is not difficult to imagine why evidences are magically disappearing,” he adds.

According to sources, CBI has sent the evidences it gathered against retired IAS officers Ranjana Chaudhary, Kailash Chandra Jain and retired IPS officer R K Shivhare of their involvement in Vyapam scam surrounding Pre-PG 2012 paper leak to the headquarters a few days ago. To note, it took four years for CBI to name then Vyapam Chairman Ranjana Chaudhary, in spite of knowing that only three people chaired by Chaudhary knew ‘the model answer key’ of the exam. The action is likely to be taken within a month as the state government is closely monitoring the development.

Engineer-turned-activist Prashant Pandey, in 2016, had told court that the confiscated hard disk, claimed to be from the computer of Vyapam chief system analyst Nitin Mohindra, was tampered to save people in power. However, the investigating bodies rejected the claims, saying that the pen drive submitted by whistle-blower Prashant Pandey was forged. He questions, “If those were false, why are not they registering the case against me? It is simply a detour to delay the justice.” The STF has now asked Prashant to submit the evidences he has.

Also watch: Vyapam Scam: The Curious Case of Fake Doctors, Incompetent Investigations

He says that he is wary of Vyapam investigation now as he feels that the present recourse will lead to confrontation between STF and CBI. That their disagreement, mainly resulting from political pressure on CBI’s end, on the cases can’t be ruled out. “STF is not under the harsh political pressure like before, so we have certain expectations,” he says. “One can match text messages transmitted between the communication channels, CDRs are also available. It proves that text messages were exchanged between person A and person B. Now, look at another aspect. The same roll number mentioned in text messages is the beneficiary in exam result as well. This simply establishes the corroborating evidence,” explains Prashant, who had sent a broad range of ‘text messages’ mentioning roll numbers, admission details, etc. related to medical entrance examinations to the investigating bodies which were not taken seriously earlier. Instead, he was arrested on charges of illegally accessing CDRs and other confidential data.

According to Prashant, a senior Congress politician too is involved in the racket. “The scam [Vyapam] runs through political spectrum,” he says.

As the activists prepare to blow the whistle on former CM Shivraj Singh, CBI – having already given clean chit to hit – is less likely to agree with STF’s prospective findings against Singh and other accused from political sphere. With the STF functioning under a different government, chances are there that the issues raised by the activists would be thoroughly re-investigated.

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