Srinagar: While admonishing Crime Branch of police over the slow pace of its investigation into the cash-for-paper scam of Common Entrance Test 2012, the J&K High Court has made it clear that nobody should be or can be allowed to reap the fruits of fraud.
At the same time, a division bench of the court headed by Justice Hasnain Massodi expressed its “disappointment” at Board of Professional Entrance Examination (BOPEE) for its failure to appreciate the urgency in taking appropriate action against 12 beneficiaries of the fraud allegedly engineered by the former BOPEE chairman Mushtaq Ahmad Peer.
Hearing a suo-moto Public Interest Litigation, the bench also comprising Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey passed a slew of directions to the Crime Branch, BOPEE and other agencies concerned to ensure that meritorious candidates triumph in their endeavour for professional excellence.
“The pace of investigation after the charge sheet has been presented against (first set of accused by Crime Branch), appears to have slowed down. The initial enthusiasm and alertness shown by the investigation agency that earned it appreciation of the court has started waning,” the bench observed. It asked the Crime Branch not to rest on the laurels but make an effort to unravel and lay bare every strand of the conspiracy which led to selection of undeserving candidates for MBBS course in 2012.
“It has to realize that speedy, fair and objective investigation is to help restore confidence of institutions and at the same time make those allegedly involved in the fraud to realize that the arm of law is long enough to reach an accused and bring him or her to justice,” the bench said.
It asked the Crime Branch to speed up the investigation and make a serious effort “with proper dispatch” to unveil the beneficiaries of the fraud other than candidates who are found by it to have wrongfully managed their admission with the help of other perpetrators of the crime.
So far the Crime Branch has named 12 beneficiaries, and it was likely to file chargesheet within few days against nine more candidates.
“The investigating agency is to realize that what has been unraveled till date may be the proverbial tip of the iceberg and it may have to extend its investigation to the academic years 2011, 2010 and 2009 or even there-before, once it is done with the investigation relating to 2012.”
The bench also termed the status report filed by the BOPEE in compliance to the court’s direction of showing door to 12 candidates identified by the Crime Branch as “disappointing.”
“The officers in BOPEE have failed to appreciate the urgency involved in taking steps in light of inputs provided to them by the investigating agency,” the court said after perusal of the status report by the BOPEE, revealing that it sent ‘show cause’ notices to the 12 beneficiaries through Principal, Government Medical College, not to their home addresses.
As reported by Kashmir Reader, only four students have responded to the notices and that too without appending their signatures.
“There was no reason for BOPEE to send the notices to Principal GMC (to be forwarded to the 12) candidates had it any will to act. (The BOPEE) had a number of options available to ensure immediate services on the candidates.” One of the options available to it, court said, was to get the notices published in newspapers.
“It could have even also used electronic media to reach the candidates or serve notices through special messengers or by speed or registered post.”
The BOPEE, court said, did not require any instructions and those at the helm of affairs were required to use administrative skill to ensure that the notices were served with due dispatch.
“It was to be realized that the endgame was not the mode and manner in which notices were to be issued but to make the candidates aware about the contents of the notice and offer them an opportunity to respond to the notice, if so advised.”
The Board authorities, court said, have instead proceeded at a snail’s pace and “the result is delay in compliance of the court directions.”
In case the BOPEE officers cannot appreciate the urgency involved and steps required to be taken in given circumstances, the court said that right course for them is to step aside and allow those having commitment and requisite skill to man the posts.
“We want to make it clear that nobody should be or can be allowed to reap the fruits of fraud. Whoever has secured admission in a professional college through deceitful and fraudulent means is to be de-seated so that meritorious candidates who would have been able to get admission by dint of their hardwork are not deprived of usufructs of their labour and get the admission that has been wrongfully snatched away from them.”
The Board, therefore, court said, shall take immediate steps to serve notice on the 12 candidates as well as nine more candidates, to be given by Crime Branch to it, during next few days.
“(The BOPEE should immediately) take a decision in the matter in accordance with law without any further delay.),” the court said, adding, the state government and its functionaries “wherever they have a role in the matter shall also take requisite steps without any delay.”
The court also directed all the telecom companies including BSNL, Aircel and Reliance to extent full cooperation to the Crime Branch.
“The companies and their officers have to further realize that any reluctance on their part with the information required for progress in investigation is likely to obstruct the investigation, constraining the (Crime Branch) to resort to coercive measures available to it under law.”
The direction by the court followed submission by the Crime Branch that non-cooperation by the companies was “adversely affecting” the investigation and “may hamper the investigating agency to lay hands on any left out candidates, if any.”
“BSNL and other telecom companies are sharing details with other agencies like Defence, why not with the investigation agency of J&K?” Advocate General M I Qadri said in his arguments.
The court also turned down the Crime Branch proposal to entrust investigation regarding acquisition of assets illegally or assets disproportionate to known sources of income of public servants or other facilitators to other investigation agency like State Vigilance Organization.
The court also requested the Special Anti-corruption Judge Kashmir to dispose of at earliest the application filed by Crime Branch for pardon to Farooq Ahmad Itoo, one of the kingpins in the scam who has expressed “willingness” to be approver in the case.
The direction followed by submission by Advocate General as well as amicus curie in the case, senior advocate B A Bashir.
The Advocate General said the pardon application shall be decided earliest as possibility of shattering investigation cannot be ruled out.
“This investigation will get hampered if offer of approver is not taken seriously at the threshold. Approver is more important. Trial court should decide the application and this offer should be encashed,” advocate Bashir said.
The court also directed Crime Branch as well as BOPEE to file status reports before next date of hearing on February 18.