Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh High Court on Wednesday reserved its order on initiating a CBI investigation into the multi-crore Vyapam recruitment scam, a day after Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan made a U-turn and announced that he is recommending a probe by the central investigation agency into the case and the deaths related to it.
Responding to Chouhan's written submission calling for a CBI probe into the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB) scam, also called the Vyapam scam, the High Court said that since the matter is listed for hearing in the Supreme Court tomorrow, it can not pass a ruling on it.
The Chouhan made the announcement a day after Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the Centre can't initiate a CBI probe unless the state government makes a recommendation in this regard.
Addressing the media in Bhopal, a grim looking Chouhan said he was dispatching a letter to the Madhya Pradesh High Court requesting that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) be allowed to probe the scandal.
"In a democracy, the ruler should be above suspicion," he said. "There are questions in people's minds. People want to know the truth. Questions in people's minds have to be answered,” he said.
"I bow my head to people's wishes. I am sending a request to the high court that the CBI should be allowed to investigate the case," the veteran BJP leader said.
BJP sources, however, said that Chouhan's change of mind followed some hard talk by Rajnath Singh, who convinced him that a CBI probe would help ward off the negative image the party was gaining on account of the Vyapam scam and other issues.
Chouhan, however, made it clear that he had full faith in the investigation by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) so far, which he underlined was being monitored by the high court.
Until now, the CM had maintained that the CBI need not be brought into the picture as the Madhya Pradesh High Court was monitoring the SIT probe and there was no way his government could influence the investigation.
An unrelenting Congress stuck to its demand for Chouhan's resignation, saying his departure was important for a neutral probe.
It said Chouhan, who has been in power in Madhya Pradesh for over a decade, was trying to "mislead" the people by requesting the high court for a probe by the CBI into the scam.
"We remain firm on our demand for a Supreme Court-monitored probe," Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia said in New Delhi.
"If we want a neutral probe, then the Chief Minister should resign. We want to clarify that if there has to be transparency, then he should not object to an Supreme Court-monitored probe," he added.
Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said that apart from the Vyapam recruitment scam, the probe into the deaths of people connected with the issue should also be handed over to the CBI.
The BJP called the Congress "confused" after the opposition party dismissed a CBI probe into the Vyapam scam, insisting on a Supreme Court-monitored CBI probe instead.
"I think the Congress is confused under the leadership of (party vice president) Rahul Gandhi. They should decide what they want," BJP national secretary Siddhartha Nath Singh told media persons in Kolkata.
"If they want a CBI probe, the chief minister has already requested it. And so far as the court-monitored probe is concerned, the high court monitored SIT is already investigating the matter," he said.
The CPI-M said the Supreme Court should oversee the CBI probe into the scam and asked Chouhan to quit until this gets over.
"The CPI-M demands that a thorough enquiry by the CBI under the supervision of the Supreme Court must be conducted into this sordid affair and the guilty should be identified and punished," the party said.
Over 46 people allegedly associated with the admission and recruitment scam in Vyapam have died since 2013 in mysterious circumstances or committed suicide.
Chouhan insisted that he did not discuss his decision to go for a CBI inquiry with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is now on a visit to Central Asia. He refuted the opposition's "baseless allegations" against him.
The Congress and the AAP have also sought the resignation of Madhya Pradesh Governor Ram Naresh Yadav over his alleged involvement in the scam.
Tuesday's announcement follows an increasing number of deaths allegedly linked to the scandal in one way or the other.
On June 4, a television journalist covering the story in Madhya Pradesh died mysteriously. The next day, a college dean from the state helping in the investigation was found dead in a hotel room in Delhi.
On Monday, a woman police trainee recruited through Vyapam was found dead in Sagar district.
And a Madhya Pradesh police constable, who committed suicide also on Monday, was being questioned by a team probing the scam, reports said.