Congress leader Digvijaya Singh approached the Supreme Court on Tuesday for a CBI probe into a multi-layered exam scam in Madhya Pradesh as well as a string of mysterious deaths of witnesses, whistle-blowers and accused in the case that has rattled the BJP-led state government.
The move followed two more deaths at the weekend of people linked to the Vyapam scam that saw candidates bribe officials, rig examinations by deploying imposters to write test papers and supply forged answer sheets during a recruitment process conducted by the state-run board between 2012 and 2013. More than 2,000 arrests have been made so far.
Singh said a Special Task Force (STF) of state police that was investigating the case expressed its “helplessness” in the matter given its magnitude and the alleged involvement of top officials from the civil services, police and judiciary as well as BJP and RSS leaders.
“This is the biggest scam ever and some powerful people are involved in it. I believe the Supreme Court should look into the matter,” Singh said after filing his petition, demanding a court-monitored CBI probe.
HT Exclusive: In Vyapam scam, 10 dead in mishaps and 4 suicides
The Opposition has painted a picture of possible conspiracy to silence key players in the case as the death toll reached 25 last week, but an investigation by Hindustan Times showed a dozen other people connected to the case, who are not mentioned in STF documents, died under suspicious circumstances.
“The chief minister of Madhya Pradesh has himself admitted that 1,000 fake admissions have taken place. Despite this, no action has been taken,” Singh said.
Apart from the Congress leader, three others have sought the top court’s intervention in the matter: Anand Rai, a doctor who exposed illegal clinical trials in Indore, Prashant Pandey, the whistle-blower in the case and Ashish Chauturvedi, an RTI activist.
All three received death threats, but the Madhya Pradesh high court rejected their plea for security cover, said an advocate involved in drafting the petition.
Local authorities on Tuesday asked the STF to look into the mysteriously rising body count in the case a day after the state government ruled out a CBI probe, saying all the deaths were from natural causes.
“There is no need for any inquiry. These are natural deaths. Some died of heart attacks. Some died of other ailments. Only a doctor can establish the reason,” state home minister Babulal Gaur told HT on Monday.
The high court is monitoring the STF’s investigation directly through a Special Investigation Team (SIT) after a pitched Opposition campaign against the state government for allegedly going slow in the inquest.
Justice Chandresh Bhushan, who heads the SIT, said if any police lapse was found while probing the “unnatural”, the case could be reopened after taking the high court’s permission.
“We have submitted a list of 23 accused who died and two days ago two more accused passed away. We will inform the high court in next report about these two deaths," Bhushan told HT.
The scam came to light when Indore Police stumbled upon multiple rackets that committed large-scale fraud in the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (PEB) examinations for years while probing complaints of imposters in the pre-entrance medical test (PMT).
Among the tests rigged were the PMT 2008-13, pre-PG test for postgraduate medical courses in 2012, and recruitment exams for contract teachers, food inspectors, police constables and ayurvedic medical officers.