Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh: Was it a trap the Congress walked into?

The dramatic turn of events in the Professional Examination Board (PEB) aka Vyapam scam has left the Congress stunned. The latest verdict handed by the state High Court seems to have turned the tables on the Congress which had staked its prestige in trying to nail chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan as the key person behind the scam. Former chief minister Digvijaya Singh had depended on a cyber-expert, whose services were earlier hired by the Indore police and the special task force (STF) of the state police that was constituted to investigate the scam that runs into several thousand crores.

The cyber-expert, Prashant Pandey, who later changed sides to help the Congress build up a case against the chief minister, was mentioned as Mr X in the Court records to guard his identity. Digvijaya Singh later named him.

The special investigation team (SIT) monitoring the STF investigation on the directives of the High Court concluded that Singh had produced forged documents. The High Court promptly accepted the report and asked SIT to take action against Pandey. Singh had repeatedly accused STF of carrying on prosecution on the basis of a doctored excel-sheet in which names of Chouhan and some others had been struck out.

Representational image. AFP.

Representational image. AFP.

SIT said Pandey had fabricated the excel sheet given to the Congress leaders. What does the Congress do now? Singh’s first reaction was that of shock and disappointment. Lawyers KTS Tulsi, Kapil Sibal and Vivek Tankha indicated that they would move the Supreme Court to seek transfer of the case from Madhya Pradesh High Court to some other court. Tankha said the SIT dismissed the data as forged without getting them examined. The SIT is apparently under pressure. It must revel who is pressuring it.

The SIT has recommended action against officers of Indore crime branch and special task force (STF) for allegedly engaging Pandey, a private detective and forensic expert for their investigations. The contents of Pandey’s pen drive were forged to mislead the investigating agency.

The verdict also comes as a relief to the State governor Ram Naresh Yadav against whom the SIT had recommended an FIR for allegedly recommending some candidates for selection as RTO constables. Yadav survived arrest by pointing out that the Excel sheet submitted by Singh could be “forged.” The SIT led by former high court judge Justice Chandresh Bhushan says allowing a private person access to evidence related to any on-going investigations violates service rules.

Bhopal police arrested Pandy on August 6 under IT Act for selling "call details records (CDRs)" of different individuals to third parties. His association with police and STF came to light here.
Pandey claimed he was arrested as Bhopal police wanted to know "whether STF has any information about chief minister's involvement in MPPEB scam".

Pandey claimed in a petition in Delhi high court that he had acquired critical sensitive information on the scam during professional assistance to STF. He said he was interrogated by SSP Shriniwas Verma, IG intelligence Sanjeev Shami, additional SP Shailendra Singh Chauhan and additional SP A P S Chauhan (both relatives of the chief minister). The Police released him after he promised not to divulge any information.

Pandey’s lawyer Badar Mahmood said STF consulted him about retrieval of old CDRs. "On August 6, 2014 Pandey was in STF office, Bhopal for consultancy. He was later arrested because the government got a whiff of his turning into a whistle blower.

The Congress has claimed that it got the original excel sheet of the PEB results drawn from the hard disk of PEB examination controller Nitin Mohindra. The excel sheet showed the chief minister having recommended several candidates. The document was later tampered with to replace the chief minister’s name with that of senior leader Uma Bharti, the governor and some ministers, said Digvijaya Singh.

The Congress later approached the Prime Minister with the “evidence” to act against Chouhan. The party said it would put to test Modi’s oft-repeated boast of “na khaaoonga na khaane doonga (will neither pilfer nor allow anyone to pilfer).” The Congress complained to Modi against Chouhan’s refusal to hand over the probe to the CBI. Tails up state BJP is now celebrating. An aggressive Shivraj Chouhan asked Congress president Sonia Gandhi asking her if she was aware of Digvijaya Singh’s campaign against him. If not will she act against the leaders who hatched the plan. He has sought an appointment with her.

Updated Date: Jul 01, 2015 18:32 PM

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