A court-monitored special inquiry into the multi-crore exam-rigging scandal, or the Vyapam scam, slapped identical charges against hundreds of accused students and parents, including allegations of gun-running and selling illicit liquor, an HT investigation has found.
Some 2,000 people have been arrested in the scandal, more than half of them students and parents who are accused of trying to bribe their way into jobs and medical schools with the help of an organised racket in Madhya Pradesh.While documents with HT helped track multiple examples of people facing identical charges, a senior official from the Special Task Force (STF), which is probing the scam, confirmed that about 400 accused faced exactly the same charges, including under the Arms Act and the MP Excise Act.
Watch: The A to Z of the Vyapam scam
“My daughter who shudders to even hold a vegetable knife in her hands is now facing charges under the Arms Act and Excise Act,” Syed Irshad Ali, a resident of Indore and an accused along with his daughter told Hindustan Times.
“Even, the same sections of the acts were imposed on me. Now, we are scared what will happen in future because they have imposed serious charges on us.”
All these accused faced charges under sections 25 and 27 of the Arms Act -- which deal with manufacturing, selling, transferring, converting, repairing and testing of firearms -- and section 34 of the MP Excise Act which deals with manufacturing, selling and transporting or possessing liquor/intoxicants.
The investigations into the scam are already under a cloud following the mysterious deaths of more than 40 witnesses and accused and reports of questionable autopsies. Now, the nature of the charges against the accused and their pattern raise further questions about the credibility of the probe.
What further undermines the reliability of the inquiry is the fact that, on the one hand, ‘arrest memos’ mention the charges against the accused and, on the other, also state that STF officials had found nothing incriminating after their routine search of an accused’s house. HT has copies of several such ‘giraftari patrak’ (arrest memos).
“First, police came to arrest my daughter like she is a terrorist. About 70 police personnel surrounded the house at the midnight,” an accused parent told Hindustan Times on condition of anonymity.
“Later they imposed Arms Act and Excise Act sections on us. The humiliation we had to face was not because of our involvement in the scam but only because of the fact that the STF found our names in the racketeers’ list.
“Due to this trauma, we were forced to sell our house and shift to another place in the city. Even when we asked the police personnel to explain our offences, STF officials didn’t tell us anything about the charges they later slapped on us.”
STF chief Sudhir Sahi refused to comment on the matter, saying they were following court orders and that all questions should be directed to the court.
Bhopal-based advocate Rakesh Mishra, counsel for several accused students, said, “STF officials simply copy-pasted all the sections in the FIR of all the students and their parents.
“The parents are really disturbed with such charges. Now, the court may take a decision on this during framing of charges against the arrested persons.”