Two more accused in the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB) scam have died in Gwalior and Indore, adding another murky twist to the case in which several politicians and bureaucrats are allegedly involved.
The death of 40-year-old Dr Rajendra Arya in Gwalior's Birla Hospital was said to be due to a disease while that of Narendra Singh Tomar , 29, in Indore Jail reportedly occurred in mysterious circumstances.
On Sunday, Tomar - a veterinarian - complained of chest pain and was rushed to hospital where he was declared dead on arrival, sources said.
According to an official account, 24 accused and witnesses in the case have mysteriously died so far. But a report in a national daily put the least number of deaths in mysterious circumstances at 41.
The chairman of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted to probe the case recently admitted more than 30 deaths had been reported.
A whistleblower in the Madhya Pradesh examination and recruitment scam recently claimed that unidentified persons tried to kill him.
"It (MPPEB scam) is a non-ending saga of the state's connivance on a scale hitherto unthinkable...The Vyapam scam, 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," Vivek K Tankha, a former additional solicitor general of India and former advocate general of Madhya Pradesh, wrote in Hindustan Times .
The scam involves multiple rackets that helped candidates rig examinations for admission to colleges and recruitment in government jobs with cheats employing imposters to write test papers, manipulating sitting arrangements and even supplying forged answer sheets.
The most high-profile death in the case was that of Shailesh Yadav, the son of Madhya Pradesh Governor Ram Naresh Yadav. Shailesh, 50, was found dead at his father's residence in Mall Avenue area of the Uttar Pradesh capital Lucknow on March 25.
Ram Naresh Yadav, a former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, was named as an accused in the scam before getting relief from court.
Several politicians, including former education minister Laxmikant Sharma, a host of officials and scores of aspirants have been arrested in the case. The Congress has accused chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan of complicity.
In March, the SIT told the Supreme Court it had arrested approximately 1,800 accused and was on the lookout for another 800 people.
"According to conservative estimates, what has been uncovered so far is only 20% of the scam," Tankha said.
"If 40 deaths cannot evoke the conscience of the rulers of the state and Centre for an independent investigation by an agency like the CBI, it only signifies the collapse of our criminal justice delivery edifice. Posterity will put the blame on all institutions," he added.