Bowing to mounting pressure, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Tuesday recommended a CBI probe into the Vyapam recruitment scam that has reportedly claimed over 40 lives.

Addressing the media, a grim looking Chouhan said he was dispatching a letter to the Madhya Pradesh High Court requesting that the Central Bureau of Investigation 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. 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.”

Chouhan, however, made it clear that he has full faith in the investigation by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) done so far, which he underlined was being monitored by the High Court. Additional Advocate General P Kaurav confirmed the filing of the request. “Yes, we have filed a request in the court of Chief Justice A M Khanwilkar for a CBI probe....The HC might hear our plea tomorrow,” he said.

He said the State government’s plea says that following the “recent unfortunate incidents” related to Vyapam, the government wants a CBI probe.

The request says MP police’s Special Task Force (STF), monitored by the SIT headed by retired High Court judge Chandresh Bhushan was efficiently probing the scam. But with “the recent developments” and demand from certain quarters and to clear the air, the government is seeking a CBI probe.

No talks with Modi

Chouhan said had not discussed his decision to go for a CBI probe with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, now on a visit to Central Asia.

He said the Opposition had been levelling baseless allegations against him. “They are not bothered about the deaths,” he said. Noting that the developments in the case demand fair answers, he said: “I thought about the matter the whole night...The questions which have been raised need answers. It has become necessary now that the CBI investigates the case.”

Asked if he wants the CBI probe to cover cases of unnatural deaths as well, he said the agency should probe “all aspects”.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had yesterday said the State government cannot order a CBI probe into the scam.

“SIT probe into the scam is on, and the government cannot direct the High Court or the Supreme Court on the issue,” he said in Jhabua yesterday, noting the MP High Court and the Supreme Court had already rejected PILs seeking a CBI inquiry.

Uma Bharti’s statement

The CM said it was he who had directed bringing all examinations conducted by Vyapam under the ambit of STF probe, including admissions in medical colleges and recruitments for various government jobs.

Even while disposing of a number of PILs seeking a CBI probe earlier, the High Court and Supreme Court expressed satisfaction with the ongoing STF probe, he said.

Chouhan, however, refrained from making any comment on Union Minister Uma Bharti’s remark that she too felt “scared” over the deaths. “She is like my elder sister and a very respected leader. I respect her a lot. I made no comment against her even when she was not in BJP,” he said.

To hear plea

In a related development, the Supreme Court today agreed to hear on July 9 the plea of Congress leader Digvijaya Singh and three whistleblowers — Ashish Chaturvedi, Anand Rai and Prashant Pandey — seeking an apex court-monitored CBI probe into the scam.

Chouhan was under mounting pressure from opposition parties, particularly the Congress, to order a CBI probe following the death of Arun Sharma, the dean of a Jabalpur medical college probing the scandal on Sunday in Delhi, a day after journalist Akshay Singh mysteriously died minutes after he had interviewed the parents of a deceased girl accused.

The Opposition claims nearly 45 people linked to the scandal in some manner have died so far though the official figures put the “unnatural deaths” at 25.