The Madhya Pradesh High Court Tuesday directed the Special Task Force, which is probing the Vyapam scam, to remove Governor Ram Naresh Yadav’s name from the FIR.
The division bench, led by Chief Justice A M Khanvilkar and Justice Rohit Arya, stated that Yadav enjoyed constitutional immunity from any criminal proceedings till he was in office. If required, the agency could act against him once he ceases to be the governor, it said. Yadav’s term ends in September 2016.
The bench, however, said the immunity does not extend to merely recording his statement, and asked the probe agency to “take all salutary precautions and observe circumspection… so that the majesty of the office of the governor is not undermined in any manner”.
The court said the agency should not use any coercive action, like ordering “compulsory” appearance in the police station or subjecting Yadav to an interrogation. “If any verification of facts is required, the head of the investigating team must accompany the investigating officer to ensure that due care and diligence is observed,” it said.
The STF had filed an FIR against Yadav on February 24 under different sections of the IPC, including conspiracy and forgery, the Information Technology Act and the Prevention of Corruption Act. The SIT alleged he had recommended five names for recruitment as forest guards by using unfair means in the examination conducted by the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board, or Vyapam.
Yadav, who was named accused number 10 in the FIR, had moved the high court citing constitutional immunity under Article 36 (2) and (3). He also alleged that the FIR against him was based on hearsay evidence and on the statement of a person who was already in jail for more than a year.
On April 17, a division bench led by Chief Justice Khanvilkar, in an interim order, stayed the operation of the FIR and reserved the final order for May 5. The court asked the agency to go ahead with investigations against the other accused named in the FIR.
Yadav’s defence was led by noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani.