SC hands over Vyapam probe to CBI (Third Lead)

New Delhi, July 9 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Thursday handed over to the CBI the investigation into the criminal cases related to the Vyapam admission-cum-recruitment scam and the over 40 deaths linked to it.

The CBI will begin its probe from Monday.

The apex court bench comprising Chief Justice H.L. Dattu, Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Amitava Roy handed over the probe to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) after Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the court that he has instructions from the Madhya Pradesh government on its decision to hand over the probe to the CBI.

As soon as senior counsel Kapil Sibal appearing for petitioners addressed the court on handing over the probe into Vyapam to the CBI, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the court that he was under instruction from the Madhya Pradesh government to tell the court that the investigation into the matter be handed over the premier investigating agency.

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 Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and also the cases related to the deaths of the persons…for fair and impartial investigation.”

“We appreciate the stand of the attorney general,” the court said and added: “In view of the above, we transfer investigation of criminal cases relating to Vyapam scam and the deaths to the CBI from Monday.”

While handing over the investigation to CBI, the court slammed the high court for not taking the call after it was approached by the state government for handing over the investigation to CBI.

“The high court judges could have done something (upon being moved by the state government). They pushed the ball in our lap,” observed Chief Justice Dattu in an apparent expression of displeasure over the way the high court tried to skirt the issue.

On the plea seeking apex court monitoring of the CBI probe into the Vyapam scam, the court said it will take a call on this after hearing from the investigating agency on July 24.

The court issued notice to the central government, Madhya Pradesh government and Governor Ram Naresh Yadav on a plea challenging the Madhya Pradesh High Court order quashing the FIR against the state governor for his alleged involvement in the forest guard recruitment scam on the grounds that he enjoyed immunity of the constitutional office he was occupying.

At the outset of the hearing senior counsel Kapil Sibal appearing for a group of Gwalior based lawyers questioned the high court order quashing the FIR against Governor Ram Naresh Yadav.

“High court has clearly abdicated all the principles of criminal law laid down by this (apex) court”, Sibal said assailing the high court order for “scotching the FIR (against Governor) on the grounds that he is protected by Article 361 of the constitution.

“This can’t be possible interpretation of Article 361 by any stretch of imagination,” senior counsel told the court questioning the order quashing the FIR.

He said that the case against Governor Yadav was supported both by the state government and the Centre.

The Advocate General of Madhya Pradesh had told the court that there was “ample material in the FIR to indicate the complicity between the main accused and the governor,” Sibal told the court.

Even the Centre had said that the “substance of FIR registered (against the Governor) does not offend and violate Article 361″ Sibal told the court as he pointed to the flip flop in the position taken by the SIT on the issue.

The apex court order came on a batch of petitions including by senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh, whistle-blowers Prashant Pandey, Anand Rai, Ashish Kumar Chaturvedi and Gwalior-based lawyers Sanjay Shukla, Sanjay Kumar Mishra, Manas Dubey, Rajeev Sharma and Uma Charan Sharma.

The petitioners besides demanding the transfer of investigation to CBI had made other specific prayers also.

Digvijaya Singh has sought the quashing of the April 24, 2015, high court order and the SIT Vyapam cases report of April 22, 2015.

In the instant matter, the SIT in its report to the high court had said that the material produced by the senior Congress leader relating to the Vyapam scam to contend that the trail led to the door step of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was prima facie “fabricated and forged to mislead the investigation.”

Six Gwalior based lawyers have sought the removal of Governor Yadav so that he could be proceeded against for his alleged involvement in the forest guard recruitment scam.

They have challenged the Madhya Pradesh high court order which, on a plea by Governor Yadav, had quashed the FIR against him on the grounds of immunity that was attached to his office.

However, it had given the investigating agency liberty to proceed against him after he ceases to be the Governor.

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