Opposition, whistle-blowers cry foul at multiple loose ends in CBI's Vyapam chargesheet
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has taken more than two years to file its first chargesheet in the Vyapam scam probe. The agency showed unusual enthusiasm in announcing this feat in the press, making emphatic assertions that it would want to be lauded for it.
However, the full probe is far from completion and the loose ends in CBI's conclusions do no justice to the agency's already battered image.
The chargesheet is against 490 accused, the largest number of which are 'Solver & Beneficiary candidates' (297) and guardians of the beneficiary candidates (170). Only three Vyapam officials, three racketeers, and 17 middlemen have been mentioned.
Interestingly, apart from telling the story of the efforts it has made into the probe so far, CBI has sought to throw the spotlight on a seized hard disk. The drive was seized by Indore Police from the computer of the then Principal System Analyst of Vyapam.
Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh, and a whistleblower in the scam Prashant Pandey, had alleged that the disk originally had undeniable evidence of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan's involvement but it was later tampered with.
In what sounds more like a political statement, CBI has asserted that there was “no grain of truth” in the allegation that the disk was tampered with. These kind of expressions are very unusual for an agency like CBI, which is so reserved in its communication strategies that it has no social media presence.
The chargesheet and CBI's assertions have failed to impress several whistle-blowers who had exposed critical details related to the scam. They are disappointed that CBI did not conduct a thorough probe and let go some of the key accused.
Indore-based Anand Rai, a doctor who used to work for the Madhya Pradesh government, told Catch that the agency's assertions deserve questioning. He said Truth Lab had earlier concluded that the hard disk had indeed been tampered with and he and others will raise this matter with the trial court that is handling the case.
Rai also questioned how former Vyapam official Pankaj Trivedi's name was not there in the chargesheet, given that there was a time when he was in jail and the Madhya Pradesh police were opposing bail for him.
Gwalior-based Ashish Chaturvedi said it must be emphasised that the CBI's statements are wrongly being interpreted as a clean chit in Vyapam. This case is just one of the 185 FIRs related to the scam that were transferred to the CBI, he explained.
Chaturvedi also informed that in at least one of the many cases in which he is formally listed as a witness, CBI did not record his statement and submitted the chargesheet based on the Madhya Pradesh STF's report. Is that re-investigation that the SC had asked the agency to do? Chaturvedi asked.
Pandey tweeted that the CBI appeared to be trying to save corrupt officers and politicians involved in the scam.
The CBI's conclusions have also put Digvijay Singh and the Congress party on that mat by terming the allegations leveled by them and evidence presented as fabricated. Congress has decided to take the assertion head-on.
कांग्रेस पार्टी अब चार्जशीट करने वालों को चार्जशीट करने जा रही है और कोर्ट से दूध का दूध और पानी का पानी कराने कहेगी @KapilSibal— Congress Live (@INCIndiaLive) November 1, 2017
One of the party's MPs in the Rajya Sabha and a senior advocate, Vivek Tankha, tweeted that the CBI report was “no surprise in today's times”. Instead of throwing some much-needed light on the mysterious aspects of the scam, the CBI chargesheet appears to have opened a fresh can of worms.