By Vivek K Tankha
Madhya Pradesh continues to be rocked by the revelations of VYAPAM scam. It is a non-ending saga of the State’s connivance on a scale hitherto unthinkable. VYAPAM in short is a “multi billion” home grown illicit business engineered with full State patronage. It is the largest scam engulfing the “highest” and the “mightiest” from the State. It is now an acronym for procuring illegal admissions in government and private medical and dental colleges and jobs in government services on a magnitude never seen before.
In the month of March, 2015, The Special Task Force (STF) investigating the VYAPAM scam in its affidavit before the Supreme Court admitted that it arrested approximately 1800 accused (mostly students, their parents and some middle men) and are on a lookout for another 800. As per our conservative estimates what has been uncovered so far is a mere 20% of the whole scam. Its dimensions and quantum are mind-boggling.
VYAPAM involves selection to jobs and various services in the State of Madhya Pradesh including Police, Forest, Excise, Weight & Measures, Revenue, Patwaris, Teachers Dairy Federation etc. during the period 2007-2013 in an estimated 1,40,000 posts. It also involves illegal admissions in graduate and post graduate medial and dental seats in thousands. Though the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh never tires himself of claiming credit for starting investigation in the scam ; but his statement is ‘untrue’. The investigation in the scam commenced on 07th July, 2013 on the basis of a report lodged on the information of a civil rights activist Dr. Anand Rai at Indore. This report which commenced the investigation at Indore was later transferred for further and deeper investigation to STF Bhopal. Incidentally as per Dr. Rai, officers who were in the Crime Branch Indore investigating this offence and with close connect to the ruling party were conveniently associated with the investigation of the STF also (Reference:- ABP News dated 28.05.2015).
Another activist Shri Ashish Chaturvedi who is a crucial witness in the VYAPAM scam continues to suffer life threats. Court orders to protect him are observed more in breach and less in action. His pathos points a finger on the ineffectiveness of our justice delivery system to protect witnesses and whistleblowers and also raises a question mark on the intentions of the State and its agencies. A crucial cog in the VYAPAM wheel is Prashant Pandey, a forensic –IT expert. The STF engaged the whistleblower to unravel the truth of the scam. The whistleblower provided many crucial leads and pieces of digital evidences indicating connect of the top most people and personalities of the State with the illicit business including the office of the Chief Minister of the State. A portion of this material is filed before the Supreme Court of India by the whistleblower in the “illicit snooping case” wherein notices have been issued to CBI and DG Military Intelligence.
In order to verify the truth of excel-sheet submitted by the whistle blower a report was sought in March -2015 from the ‘TRUTH LAB’ Bangalore. This forensic lab is respected for its veracity with a distinguished board consisting of retired eminent judicial, executive, police, forensic personalities. The lab submitted a voluminous report certifying the following:-
(1) The original excel-sheet submitted by the whistle blower was retrieved on
(2) It was again opened at 06:00 PM on the same day
(3) It was modified and changed at 08:15 pm on the same day i.e. on 18th July 2013 at 04:20 PM.
The report also provides details of the analysis of meta data with precise details of the hard -disk and computer systems. The original lab report with the pen drive is in sealed cover with the Registrar General of the Delhi High Court. Judicial orders of Delhi High Court have protected the life and liberty of the whistleblower. Certified copy of the Truth Lab report was submitted before the High Court of Madhya Pradesh at Principal Seat Jabalpur on the directions from the Delhi High Court dated 26th March, 2015.
The Special Investigating Team (SIT) constituted by the Madhya Pradesh High Court sought a report from the STF (the suspected agency) on the veracity of the material submitted by the whistleblower along with the ‘Truth Lab Report’. As expected, and with full alacrity within 5 days a report was submitted in a sealed cover before the Jabalpur High Court on 22nd April, 2015 – calling the material and the report submitted by the whistleblower as “FABRICATED AND FORGED” to mislead the investigation. The entire exercise by the STF which is not a forensic lab was completed without seeking or calling for any assistance from the whistleblower or the Truth Lab, Bangalore – both of whom had offered their assistance.
Today 7.5 Crore people of Madhya Pradesh are in search of justice which seems to be eluding them. As per the report of a national daily dated 28.05.2015, at least 40 suspects connected with VYAPAM scam have died in mysterious circumstances. The Chairman of the SIT retired Justice Chandresh Bhushan in his media interaction admitted that more than 30 deaths have occurred in suspicious circumstances of persons crucial to the investigation. It is writ large that STF is seemingly incapable of investigating a multi –state high profile investigation of the current dimension. A recent news report claimed STF officials as being held hostages in Uttar Pradesh. A crisis is staring at the face of our fast eroding institutional mechanisms. Its clear that neither State Govt. nor the Central Govt. is in favor of an independent investigation in VYAPAM. The Governor of Madhya Pradesh was an accused in VYAPAM with an FIR registered against him. The MP High Court protected the office of the Governor by passing an order on a petition by the Governor in person by invoking the principle of constitutional immunity under Article 361(2) of the Constitution. A situation never envisaged by the founding fathers of our Constitution.
If the excel-sheet produced by the whistleblower certified by the Truth Lab is to be believed, the office of the Chief Minister, Union Minister, Governor, other ministers, IAS officers, will fall prey as beneficiaries of the scam. If 40 deaths cannot evoke the conscience of the rulers of the State and Central Govt for an independent investigation by an agency like the CBI, it only signifies the collapse of our Criminal Justice Delivery edifice. Posterity will apportion blame upon all institutions. Actors in this theatre of absurdity will come and go; but the fight for justice for victims of VYAPAM will not end. There is a hope amongst 7.5 Crore people of the State that justice may be delayed but not denied in our country.
[Vivek K. Tankha is a Senior Advocate, a Former Additional Solicitor General of India and a former Advocate General of Madhya Pradesh.
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NOTE: Views expressed are the author’s own. Janta Ka Reporter does not endorse any of the views, facts, incidents mentioned in this piece.