In Madhya Pradesh's Vyapam scam, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) faces a daunting task of unravelling a corruption scandal that went on for years, leaving a trail of thousands of suspects – including some top elected representatives – with hordes of tell-tale evidence requiring thorough scrutiny.
More than 2,000 people have been arrested in connection with the scam since it came to light in 2013, and more than 40 people with links to the scam have died mysteriously.
Many politicians, bureaucrats and middlemen are said to be involved in the scandal which, according to the police, involved scamsters employing imposters to write tests conducted by the MPPEB for admission to professional courses and government job recruitments. The scamsters also supplied forged answer sheets by bribing officials between 2012 and 2013.
The CBI will need to track down thousands of suspects and witnesses and follow a complex eight-year trail. After the investigation, it must file a charge sheet. Only then will the case go to trial.
As the CBI readies to begin its probe in the scandal, here's all you need to know about the high-profile people accused in the case as well as the course of investigation followed by the high court-monitored Special Task Force.
THE RAJ BHAVAN LINK
The extent of the Vyapam scam was such that the highest rungs of power were part of the fraud, instead of working to stop it. The Madhya Pardesh governor, who is the Constitutional head of a state, and his family members — including his sons — have been accused of involvement. The Congress has been demanding governor Ram Naresh Yadav's resignation.
Governor Yadav is an accused in the case but has been given immunity under Article 361. He was accused of recommending five candidates for selection in forest guards’ recruitment examination. An FIR was registered against him but was later quashed on the order of the Madhya Pradesh high court.
Shailesh, the governor’s son and an accused in the case, has died under mysterious circumstances. Shailesh was booked for getting candidates selected through a contract teachers’ recruitment examination. He was declared an absconder and was found dead at his home in Lucknow earlier this year.
Another son of the governor has reportedly been summoned by the STF for questioning over irregularities in the contract teachers’ recruitment test. Hindustan Times is withholding his name till he is formally accused.
Dhanraj Yadav , a former officer-on-special-duty to the governor, is also an accused. In jail, he is accused of getting candidates selected through contract teachers’ recruitment examination and police recruitment test.
THE PEB QUARTET
The officials of the MP Professional Examination Board (PEB), or Vyapam, were the key technical players who rigged the various entrance tests after getting money from racketeers or candidates directly. Most were close to powerful people.
Pankaj Trivedi is in jail. A key accused in the case, he was the director of the PEB and is booked in multiple cases in the scam. It was during his tenure that all the PEB exams were rigged. He was a lecturer with a government college in Indore, who got the plum post of Controller of Examination with the PEB and later the director, due to his proximity to former education minister Laxmikant Sharma and Sudhir Sharma.
Nitin Mahindra , the ex-principal systems analyst of PEB, is also in jail. He is the main technical hand who manipulated the examinations conducted by the PEB to help racketeers in lieu of money. Kingpins of the gangs, politicians, middle-men and many other beneficiaries dealt with him. He kept a record of all the dealings in the form of excel sheets in his computer. The excel sheets have now become the most important evidence in the investigation.
CK Mishra , ex-assistant programmer of PEB, is in jail. Ajay Sen is a former system analyst of the PEB. He also in jail. They were the key technical players in the scam. They assisted Nitin Mahindra in manipulating the exams. They are accused in almost all the cases registered in this multi-layered scam.
TAINTED POWER CIRCLES
The inner ring
Former ministers and senior officials who played a vital role in the scam. They had direct association with the state leadership.
Gulab S Kirar , known as a confidant of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, is absconding. He is accused of helping his son crack a medical entrance exam.
Prem Prasad is the ex-private secretary to the CM. An accused in the case, he is out on bail. He was booked for helping his daughter crack the PMT.
Ajay S Mehta is the ex-deputy chairman of the Jan Abhiyan Parishad. Accused of rigging police recruitment tests, he is out on bail.
Laxmikant Sharma He is the key accused and the then education minister. He is in jail for getting dozens selected in the teachers' recruitment exam, forest guards and police recruitment tests.
The middle ring
They are the major operators in the scam who held positions of power or were close enough to powerful people to make their own way.
Sudhir Sharma , ex-OSD to Laxmikant Sharma, is in jail. A mining baron with links to Laxmikant, he is booked in multiple cases of fraudulent examination.
Jagdish Sagar, a gang leader and key accused, is in jail. He operated a major gang that got candidates selected in PMT. Sagar allegedly operated with PEB officials and was running the racket for over a decade.
Sanjeev Shilpkar, another gang kingpin, is also in jail. He arranged for impersonators and bright students to help the beneficiaries pass the exams.
OP Shukla , another ex-OSD to Laxmikant Sharma, was allegedly a conduit between the minister and PEB officials. He would allegedly forward lists of candidates who had to be passed through manipulation and also got a cut in the money made by PEB officials.
The outer ring
They are the well-connected, non-official suspects who allegedly acted as conduits between officials and beneficaries.
Vinod Bhandari, the Indore-based chairman of a group of medical colleges, is in jail. He allegedly helped candidates crack the PMT and pre-PG exams in nexus with PEB officials.
Deepak Yadav is the son-in-law of a retired cop. He is a key accused and is in jail. He ran an entire gang of impersonators for tests.
RK Shivhare is the former deputy inspector general of police. He is accused of getting his daughter and son-in-law pass pre-PG (medical) entrance exam. He also took money for police recruitment tests.
Bharat Mishra is the brother of a senior IPS officer. He is in jail. He is accused of helping ineligible candidates crack the pre-PG, PMT and police recruitment exam.
Sanjeev Saxena is a local politician and is in jail. Owner of a group of colleges, he is accused of getting candidates selected through the food inspectors' exam and dairy federation exam.
Tarang Sharma, the son-in-law of an IAS officer, is in jail. He is an accused in several cases and helped ineligible candidates pass exams.