Why SC must reconsider and take VYAPAM case out of Madhya Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh’s VYAPAM scam has recently come into media focus. On the face of it, it just a run-of-the-mill admission and recruitment scam. News about educational seats up for sale is not new to India, but Vyapam has managed to grab eyeballs for more sinister reason. Although it is a scam which is common in India, it is uncommon to see so many people somehow connected with the scam, die mysterious deaths. Right from middle men, to Deans, to students to journalists, all have perished in this case, or at least that’s how people are interpreting many of these deaths.

If locals are to be believed, similar admission scams were going on in Madhya Pradesh since the 1990s. This is corroborated by the fact that the current VYAPAM scam kingpin Dr Jagdish Sagar was arrested for similar charges way back in 2003. But due to police negligence, he got a free hand to continue his activities.

By 2009, more complaints emerged and by 2013, whistleblower Dr Anand Rai, had blown the lid off the scam. To be fair, Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan had begun investigation in 2009 itself by setting up a committee. But as of now, the Madhya Pradesh Government has no role in the investigation.

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The probe is currently being monitored by an SIT set up by the Madhya Pradesh High Court, and a Special Task Force which is investigating the matter with them. In March, Kapil Sibal, on behalf of the petitioner, approached the Supreme Court demanding that the investigation be handed over to the CBI. The Supreme Court did not heed to this plea and reiterated that since the High Court is monitoring the case, no interference is needed.

But now, the Supreme Court may have to revisit its decision. It may not be wise to bring in the CBI at this stage, but the entire investigation of VYAPAM scam, needs to be moved out of Madhya Pradesh, for several reasons:

1. The VYAPAM scam in Madhya Pradesh, has reached the door steps of the highest individuals. 

Madhya Pradesh CM himself was a target of allegations in this scam. Digvijay Singh, along with a blackmailer-turned-“witness”, claimed to have an “excel sheet” which proved Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s complicity. But the High Court deemed the evidence as forged .

Laxmikant Sharma, ex-Education Minister in BJP Government in MP too was arrested in this case and had to resign.

But perhaps the biggest MP individual is this mess is its ex-Governor Ram Naresh Yadav. A Congress stalwart, Yadav has a FIR against him and was asked to resign in the wake of this scam, but continues in his post. Further, his son too had a FIR against him, and he died in March 2015. The autopsy could not conclude the cause of his death.

When power individuals of a state are under the spotlight in scam, it is generally advisable to take the case out of the state, to prevent any interference.

2. Deaths and Death Threats

Many of the people involved or connected to this scam have dies in the past few years. A total of 42 people have died till date, and many have mysterious deaths. To be fair, all deaths in Madhya Pradesh should not be linked to VYAPAM scam. Egs almost all professional colleges use the VYAPAM entrance exam, so technically all students are “connected to VYAPAM”. Hence the death of any such person may or may not have a bearing to the scam.

While death of people connected is important, it is also to be noted that people who are investigating the scam are also receiving death threats. Just last week it was confirmed that 2 members of the special task force had also received threats. With danger lurking around, it is hard to believe that an impartial and free investigation will take place.

3. Complicity of the state bureaucrats

Let me start with an anecdote. India’s Defence Minister and ex Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar was once speaking about how he had trouble bringing corrupt politicians from the previous Goa Government to task. He explained that, although the ruling MLAs had changed, the bureaucrats were the same. Some of them were the same babus, who were present in the ministries in which scams took place. Today, if he had to investigate these scams, he had to use these same babus, to get information. And these babus may themselves have been involved in these scams in some capacity or the other. Hence he noticed that many times, cases would slow down, probably deliberately by such babus.

What if there is a similar case in Madhya Pradesh? Why only bureaucrats, even police and even some MLAs could be involved. Would these people with all their clout allow free and fair investigation?

In such circumstances, it seems that the process must move out of Madhya Pradesh to ensure that justice is served. The only question is whether it should go to the CBI or the Supreme Court. Although many people are clamouring for a CBI probe right now, it would be wise to avoid the CBI because if by chance, no BJP person is found to be guilty, there will be all hue and cry that CBI’s independence was compromised. Hence, the Supreme Court seems to be the best bet. But, as seen above, the Supreme Court has refused to interfere once. We wonder if recent developments related to the VYAPAM scam, will change the Apex Court’s decision.

co-founder, OpIndia.com

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