After 48 "mysterious" deaths, nation wide outrage, and the call for resignation of a number of people involved, CM of Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chouhan has finally recommended a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the Vyapam scam and related deaths.
Chouhan had been vociferous in his decision not to order a CBI probe, despite the opposition harping on about it. He claimed Congress was politicising the deaths and that he had ordered a Special Task Force (STF) inquiry as soon as the scam was unearthed.
He believed Congress had linked all the natural and unnatural deaths in this case after the investigative journalist Akshay Singh mysteriously passed away.
Chouhan defended his decision to evade a CBI probe by stating he had no right to hand over the investigation to them since it was still under the jurisdiction of the Jabalpur High Court. He claimed he had full faith in the investigation conducted by the STF and was only ordering the CBI probe, so that the government remains above suspicion.
Supreme Court intervenes
On July 8 the Supreme Court transferred the investigation of the Vyapam scam to the CBI, citing the comments made by Chouhan. It also issued a notice to the Central government, the Madhya Pradesh governor and the state government seeking the removal of the governor Ram Naresh Yadav.
The apex court ordered the probe after the Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the court that he had instructions from the Madhya Pradesh government to hand over the case to the CBI.
In its order, the Court said, " The AG on instructions says that the state of Madhya Pradesh has no objection whatsoever for transferring investigation into criminal cases related to Vyapam scam to the CBI and also the cases related to the deaths of the persons... for fair and impartial investigation," quoted Firstpost .
The Court also issued a notice questioning the Madhra Pradesh High Court order quashing an FIR against governor Yadav for his alleged involvement in forest guard recruitment scam on the grounds that he enjoyed immunity of the constitutional office he occupied.
All Vyapam related cases have been transferred to the CBI, who will begin their investigation on Monday July 13.
Since news of the scam broke in 2013, close to 50 people associated with the scam have died. The deaths include accused and witnesses, a journalist who was investigating the case and the dean of Jabalpur Medical College who was part of the probe committee. Most of the deaths have been termed mysterious, not one has been called a murder by the police.
This however, is in stark contrast to what doctors who have conducted autopsies of the victims have said.
Namrata Damor, was a 19-year-old medical student who died three years ago and was closely associated with the scam. Her death was dismissed as a suicide by the police, despite the autopsy report that said she was strangled.
" She was murdered. There is not even one percent chance of a natural death," said BB Purohit, a doctor in the team that conducted the autopsy.Her death was brought back in to focus after TV journalist Akshay Singh mysteriously collapsed and died minutes after interviewing her father.
Namrata was found dead on railway tracks in Ujjain in January, 2012. When the police filed a closure report in 2014, they called it a suicide, contradicting the autopsy report which said she died of, " violent asphyxia as a result of smothering ", and that the findings suggest a "homicidal" death.
"We three doctors conducted the post mortem... we have over 25 years of experience. There were bruises on the nose and mouth of the woman which indicated she was strangled. Also bruises on her body suggested she was dragged on the tracks after her death," Dr Purohit told NDTV.
Senior police officer Manohar Verma said, " We investigated her death and recreated the crime scene with forensic experts. We found nothing that suggested murder. If there is new evidence we can investigate again but so far there is nothing."
Despite this revelation, the chief of the Special Investigation Team, Justice (retired) Chandresh Bhushan said the series of deaths associated with the scam do not look "mysterious" but come forth as "abnormal".
" I would not like to use that word (mysterious). I will say there are certain deaths and those deaths are not normal deaths... So, if they have any connection... I am only interested in knowing if there is any connection with Vyapam scam... I will call them abnormal deaths," said Bhushan, quoted by Zee News.
He also said that the SIT was yet to find any connection between these deaths and the scam.
Congress leader Digvijay Singh on July 9 demanded that students jailed in the case should be made prosecution witnesses to expose the "nexus" between corrupt officials, police and politicians in the scandal "bigger than the 2G scam". Singh, who has been spearheading the campaign for an apex court-monitored CBI probe in the scam, said he does not expect Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to resign as "we do not expect morality from the BJP".
"Students who were made to believe that money was the only way to get admission to higher education in the state are behind bars but those who took the bribe are roaming free," while making a strong pitch for freeing the students and making them prosecution witnesses so that they could expose the corrupt people.
The Vyapam scam has taken up national and international attention. With each passing day more information is revealed that inevitably leads this rabbit hole down further and further. At this point that are so many people involved, that it is hard to pin point where this scam started and who can be held responsible. One can only hope that the CBI probe will reveal more information and make things clearer.