The dean of Jabalpur Medical College, Dr Arun Sharma, who had allegedly recently submitted 200 documents to the Special Task Force (STF) probing the Vyapam scam, was found dead in a hotel room in New Delhi on Sunday morning.
Dr Sharma had succeeded Dr D K Sakalle at the Jabalpur college after Dr Sakalle died mysteriously a year ago. Police reopened that case over the weekend, after Dr Sudhir Tiwari, president of Indian Medial Association (IMA), Jabalpur, alleged earlier in the week that Sakalle had been murdered.
Sharma was found dead in his bed by staff at Hotel Uppal near Indira Gandhi International Airport, who entered using a duplicate key after Sharma did not respond to repeated knocks. They called Police Control Room at 5.25 am, police said.
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Police found a nearly empty bottle of alcohol in the room. Sharma appeared to have drunk heavily, vomited during the night, and died of “natural causes”, officers close to the investigation said. An autopsy has been scheduled for Monday at Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital.
“We have not found anything suspicious until now. There are no injury marks on the body. Only an autopsy will bring out the cause of death. After talking with the victim’s family, we have come to know that he was a patient of hypertension and diabetes,” Joint Commissioner of Police (South-Western Range), Deependra Pathak, said.
Asked about Sharma’s reported links to the Vyapam scam, Pathak said police were “covering all angles” in their investigation. A large number of individuals — more than 40, according to the Congress — connected to the scam have died mysteriously over the last two years.
Police officers said the 64-year-old Sharma was on his way to Agartala for an inspection on behalf of the Medical Council of India. After arriving in Delhi, he had spoken with his friend, a Delhi-based doctor, before taking the hotel cab to the hotel. On the way, he had stopped to buy a bottle of alcohol. Investigators had recorded the statements of around 15 hotel staff on Sunday, and were scanning CCTV footage from the hotel.
Sharma had asked to be woken up at 4.30 am to catch a flight out of Delhi. “At 4.30 am, the hotel staff called him several times, but when he failed to respond and didn’t open the door, they called the police. Sharma was found in bed, where he had vomited and soiled his clothes,” a police officer said. Dr Sharma was the son of former Madhya Pradesh Congress president and Lok Sabha MP from Balaghat, N K Sharma. He was head of the Department of Radiology at Jabalpur Medical College when he was made dean a month ago. Sharma’s son arrived in Delhi on Sunday evening.
In Bhopal, IMA president Dr Tiwari told The Indian Express that Sharma was good friends with his predecessor, Dr Sakalle, who allegedly immolated himself a year ago. Tiwari said that at Sakalle’s funeral, Sharma had told him that he (Sharma) believed that his friend (Sakalle) could not have committed suicide, and had been murdered. In the afternoon, Congress leader Digvijaya Singh tweeted an allegation by Tiwari that Sharma had submitted 200 documents linked to the Vyapam scam to the STF two days ago. “Shouldn’t STF investigating Vyapam confirm or deny Dr Sudhir Tiwari’s statement?” Singh asked on Twitter.
Police had claimed that Dr Sakalle, who was head of Jabalpur Medical College’s Forensic Science department, had doused himself in kerosene and set himself on fire while his wife was taking a stroll outside their home. After questions were raised about the police theory, Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Babulal Gaur had told the Assembly that the CBI would be asked to probe the death. The CBI was not called in eventually.
On July 1, at a press conference organised by IMA in Jabalpur, Tiwari alleged that Dr Sakalle was killed using a laser gun. He, however, could not substantiate his allegation, and the IMA said it was Tiwari’s personal opinion.
The allegation coincided with a report, submitted last week to the High Court by the SIT monitoring the STF’s probe, that said 23 deaths linked to the Vyapam case were unnatural. The police decided to reopen the case the Sakalle case, but are yet to record Tiwari’s statement.