In a blow to former Madhya Pradesh education minister Laxmikant Sharma, his officer-on-special duty (OSD), OP Shukla, has reportedly told the Special Task Force (STF) that he used to pass on the names of candidates to the officials accused of graft in the recruitment of police constables.
The revelation is likely to put the state government led by Shivraj Singh Chouhan under more pressure and would give the opposition Congress further ammunition to have a go at the ruling BJP struggling to contain the fallout in the Professional Examination Board (PEB) scam.
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Sources said Sharma and Shukla were brought face to face with each other at the STF police station on Wednesday in connection with the constable recruitment scam. During interrogation, Sharma admitted that he knew four candidates who were recruited as constables in 2012.
However, the former minister, who is an accused in the case, denied having recommended anybody's name for appointment as constables.
Referring to Shukla's statement, one of the STF interrogators said: "Shukla told us that he only used to deliver the slips given by the minister to Pankaj Trivedi (PEB controller of examinations).
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Whether he (Sharma) was taking money from the candidates whose cases he recommended or what Trivedi did to those slips, was not known to him.
An STF officer, requesting anonymity, said Sharma, too, confessed to having known four of the six candidates, who got through the exams, allegedly on the basis of the minister's recommendations.
Sharma had reportedly recommended 15 names for the written test held for the recruitment of constables. Out of the 15, only six had managed to pass the examination.
"He (Sharma) was shown a list of 15 candidates whose names were recommended by him. But he said he knew only four of them, as they belong to his hometown. However, he denied having recommended their names," the officer said.
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Sharma is in the STF custody in connection with the police constable recruitment scam and he would be produced in court on Thursday. Sharma was arrested by the STF on June 15 in connection with the contract teachers' recruitment (grade-II and III) scam.
Later, he was booked in connection with the graft in the recruitment of constables too after his name was found in the excel-sheet which was recovered by the STF from the computer of PEB's former chief systems analyst Nitin Mahindra.
The police constables, who were arrested by the STF, have reportedly told the interrogators that their names were recommended by the minister.