Two days after it called the Vyapam scam “shocking”, the Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a CBI probe into the Madhya Pradesh admission tests scandal and directed investigation into all the criminal cases as well as deaths of more than two dozen people, allegedly linked to the scam.
It issued notices on a plea to prosecute Governor Ram Naresh Yadav for his alleged complicity in the scam.
A bench led by Chief Justice H L Dattu also said it will not let the number of deaths go up any further. “We would not allow it (deaths) to go up from 36 to 38,” the bench said.
It ordered transfer of the probe from the state’s Special Task Force (STF) after the Madhya Pradesh government submitted it has “nothing to hide” and that a CBI probe may be ordered right away.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the state, pointed out they had moved the MP High Court with a plea to transfer the probe to CBI but it refused to pass any order citing pending cases before the top court.
At this, the bench ticked off the HC, saying it seemed to have “washed its hands of” the case by not hearing the plea. The bench fixed the matter for July 24 when it is also likely to hear the agency’s views on monitoring of the probe by the apex court. The HC, which is currently monitoring the matter, has been asked by the bench to now stay away from the case.
“The Attorney General, on instructions, states that the Madhya Pradesh government has no objection whatsoever for transferring the investigation of criminal cases relating to Vyapam scam to CBI and also the cases related to deaths of those allegedly connected with the scam for a free and fair probe. We appreciate the stand of the AG. In view of the above, we transfer investigation of all criminal cases relating to Vyapam scam and death of people allegedly related to it to CBI,” the order stated.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for petitioners, Congress leader Digvijaya Singh and a bunch of lawyers, said the HC ought not to have quashed the FIR against the Governor on the ground that he enjoyed absolute immunity from prosecution under the Constitution.
“The Governor was named as accused number 10 in the FIR lodged by STF. There are specific charges against him. How can an absolute immunity be granted to any high dignitary irrespective of the seriousness of the charges? This cannot be the law of the land,” Sibal argued.
Sibal claimed his stand was supported by the Centre. When the bench, also comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy, sought to know if the Governor was being represented by any counsel, Rohatgi said he was appearing in three other petitions but not in this one.
The bench then issued notices to the Governor, Central and state governments on restoring the FIR against Yadav, and sought replies within four weeks. These petitions have also sought the Governor’s removal.
The bench, however, refrained from commenting when Sibal said that Yadav should demit his office immediately to maintain its dignity. “We are not going to say anything on it,” it said.
As Sibal underscored the gravity of the scam and asked for a short adjournment citing the number of deaths, the bench observed: “We would not allow it to go from 36 to 38.” Sibal claimed that the deaths have now risen to 48, to which the bench replied “the petition said 36 deaths.”
On Tuesday, a bench of Justices A K Sikri and Rohinton F Nariman, while hearing a different matter that pertained to civil services exam in Uttar Pradesh, had observed that the “Vyapam scam is indeed shocking. people are dying everyday”.
Meanwhile, the court also took up petitions by whistle-blowers Ashish Kumar Chaturvedi, Prashant Pandey and Anand Rai. It issued notices to the Central and state governments, and posted them for hearing separately next week. They have sought an apex court-monitored CBI probe into the scam. Digvijaya Singh, in his plea, has also challenged an HC order, dubbing his evidence supplied to the STF as forged and misleading.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Kumar Vishwas had also moved the court, urging it to take cognisance of the scam but his petition could not come up for hearing on Thursday. The apex court had earlier granted four months more to the SIT, constituted following the HC order, to conclude probe into the case.