Vyapam scam: MP Speaker violated Rules to help CM Chouhan
Posted January 2, 2016on:
The focus on Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and wife Sadhna Singh for their alleged involvement in the Vyapam scam was deflected when the Special Task Force (STF) registered an FIR in connection with the same scam against Governor Ram Naresh Yadav as it was perhaps for the first time that a criminal case was instituted against a serving Governor. The Governor’s son, Shailesh, was named as an accused in an FIR filed on February 18 for recommending 10 people for appointment as teachers in 2013. He died in Lucknow under mysterious circumstances on March 24. The Governor had meanwhile moved the State High Court which eventually quashed the FIR.
While few will vouchsafe for Governor Yadav’s commitment to propriety in the discharge of his duties, the manner in which the criminal case was instituted against him left a stinking trail behind it. The Congress in the State had been agitating, on and off, over Vyapam scam for quite some time. Of late the agitation was intensified by Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Satyadev Katare, with the help of PCC spokesperson K K Mishra, an intrepid digger of BJP government’s dark secrets. Towards the middle of last year, AICC general secretary and former chief minister Digvijaya Singh had also started taking active interest in the scam-related agitation against the BJP government.
The budget session of the Assembly was scheduled to begin on February 18. Two days before that, Digvijaya Singh threw a virtual bombshell. He submitted a sworn affidavit to the High Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) claiming that the excel sheets in the computers of the Vyapam had been tampered with to save chief minister Chouhan. Later he released a copy of his affidavit with the “tampered” excel sheets at a press conference. In a rare show of unity in the Madhya Pradesh Congress, Digvijaya Singh was accompanied at the press conference by former Union ministers Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia, PCC president Arun Yadav and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Satyadev Katare. Eminent advocate K T S Tulsi was also present. The affidavit says at the end: “vetted and settled by Sh. Kapil Sibal, Senior Advocate”.
According to Digvijaya Singh’s affidavit, the entry “CM” was deleted and replaced by other names 47 times in the computer to show that the illegalities were committed not on instructions of the chief minister but on the instructions of others. At a few places “CM” was replaced by “Uma Bharti” and at some other places by “Raj Bhavan”. He says: “as per law it is mandatory to maintain a record of ‘chain of custody’ of electronic evidence, which encapsulates the persons who handled the specimen/evidence at (the) time of seizure, what was collected, why it was collected, at what time it was handed over to next person for safe custody, to whom it was handed over, and for how long it remained in custody of various officials. The charge-sheet is silent on handling of records from local police, Indore, to Crime Branch, Indore and STF”.
This gave fresh ammunition to the Congress which created a ruckus in the House as the budget session commenced and held demonstrations outside. The ruling party became much too uncomfortable. On February 24, the STF told the media that an FIR had been registered against the Governor on the basis of the statements made by some Vyapam officials who had been arrested by STF over a year earlier and were in judicial custody. The STF did not explain why it waited for over a year to act on the allegations made by the Vyapam officials in custody.
The FIR against the Governor created a sensation but it did not dampen the clamour against the chief minister. As Chouhan found it too embarrassing to face the incessant Opposition demand in the House for his resignation, Speaker Sita Sharan Sharma abruptly adjourned the budget session sine die on a motion of Legal Affairs Minister Narottam Mishra as the House assembled on February 26 (though it was scheduled to last till March 27). Before adjourning the House, the Speaker declared the budget passed – as well as the Appropriation Bill introduced, admitted and passed, in flagrant violation of the rules. Apparently, for Speaker Sharma, saving the chief minister from continued embarrassment was more important than observance of the rules and propriety.
If the purpose of all this was to divert attention from the alleged roles of Chouhan and his wife in the scam, the STF and Speaker Sita Sharan Sharma had succeeded, at least for the time being. The intensity of the Congress agitation petered out. The scam came into the focus with greater intensity a few months later with three Vyapam-related deaths within three days. The investigation was eventually handed over to CBI by Supreme Court.