MP chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and his government have dismissed senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh’s affidavit on the Professional Examination Board (PEB) scam as “false and fabricated” but governor Ramnaresh Yadav seems to believe otherwise.
In a petition filed in the Madhya Pradesh high court under article 226 of the Constitution for quashing the FIR against him in the multi-layered scam, the beleaguered Yadav has highlighted Singh's affidavit to drive home his contention that electronic evidence in the case was tampered with by the Special Task Force (STF) of state police.
The STF is investigating all cases related to PEB scam and the high court has formed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to monitor the probe. The STF filed an FIR against the governor for fraud, criminal conspiracy, misuse of office and corruption for allegedly recommending the names of five persons for recruitment as forest guards. The SIT and the high court endorsed the move before the STF lodged the FIR.
The first argument forwarded by Yadav’s counsel, senior Supreme Court lawyer Ram Jethmalani, is that Singh claimed in his affidavit that he had the “original excel sheets/materials in which ‘CM’ was mentioned at 48 places which was substituted with ‘Uma Bharti Ji’, ‘Raj Bhavan’ , ‘M/S’, and at other places all together deleted.
Jethmalani further said in the petition: “The investigating agencies of Madhya Pradesh have tampered with the electronic evidences and submitted false and fabricated excel sheets in the charge sheets filed before competent courts of law.” A copy of Singh’s affidavit is also part of the annexure submitted with Yadav’s petition.
The second point raised in the petition is about the whistleblower in the case, Mr X, who has sought protection from Delhi high court on the ground that his life is under threat from powerful persons involved in the PEB scam. The whistleblower also expressed willingness to hand over the original excel sheets and material to the Delhi high court.
The petition pointed out that the Delhi high court was considerate towards Mr X's pleas and passed an order giving him security. It also restrained police and investigative agencies from removing the whistleblower from the jurisdiction of the Delhi high court except by following legal procedures and without intimidating Mr X or his lawyers.
The specific grounds on which the governor's petition seeks the quashing of the FIR against him is the issue of constitutional immunity under article section 361 (2) and (3) of the Constitution. Under this provision, the governor is protected from arrest and prosecution and the police cannot file an FIR against him, Jethmalani argued.
The governor’s petition also raises questions over former PEB principal system analyst Nitin Mahindra's statement to the STF against the governor one-and-a half years after his arrest. It contended the statement was a “lie” and the FIR lodged against Yadav on the basis of this statement was “frivolous”.
The petition argued that a preliminary inquiry, including questioning of the governor, should have taken place before the FIR was registered.
Jethmalani further argued that if a case was registered against the governor at the behest of the high court as some people are saying, the high court’s order was "void and must be clarified and/or partially revoked exdebito justitiate" on the basis of AR Antulay Vs RS Nayak (1988) because it was passed in the absence of the governor and had an adverse impact on him.
Jethmalani also sought relief for Yadav on the basis of his “unblemished” record in public life, old age and bad health.
The PEB scam saw candidates bribe officials, examinations being rigged by deploying imposters to write test papers and candidates being supplied forged answer sheets during the recruitment process. The tests were conducted by the state-run board between 2012 and 2013.
More than 1,800 arrests have been made so far and Yadav is by far the most high-profile person to be embroiled in the scam.