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Medical College Bribery Scam: CBI Tapes Talk of ‘Prasad’ for ‘Temple’ in Delhi, Allahabad

To get favourable verdict, “prasad will be needed. We will give the prasad. We have to give the prasad”, say conspirators accused of bribing public functionaries.

Clockwise from top left: Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court; the Prasad Education Trust run medical college; Supreme Court; CBU headquarters in Delhi. Credit: PTI, pimslko.com, PTI, PTI

New Delhi: Transcripts of phone conversations involving three accused persons in the controversial medical college bribery scam – retired Odisha high Court Judge I.M. Qudussi, middleman Vishwanath Agarwala and B.P. Yadav of the Prasad Education Trust – show that college officials had indeed planned to bribe senior functionaries of the Supreme Court and Allahabad high court to get favourable orders.

The phone conversations, transcripts of which have been accessed by The Wire, are available with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which is probing the case. The matter assumes great importance in light of the ongoing fight between Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and the four senior-most puisne judges who, in a press conference on January 12, had accused Justice Misra of defying the court’s convention by allocating work to judges “selectively to the benches ‘of their preference’ without any rational basis for such assignment” and by-passing senior judges in the process.

The bribery scam, in which the Prasad Education Trust is said to have lined up kickbacks up for senior judicial functionaries, has become one of the most significant cases on a subject usually-considered taboo – corruption in the judiciary.

The telephone conversations between the three accused persons on September 3 and September 4, 2017 happened at a time when the trust-run Prasad Institute of Medical Sciences – which was barred from admitting medical students by the Union government after having been found guilty by the Medical Council of India (MCI) for non-compliance with its requirements – had moved both the Supreme Court and the Allahabad high court against the Centre’s decision.

In the hearings that lasted from August 2017 to September 2017, the trust was granted multiple favourable orders in the Supreme Court, all in benches headed by Chief Justice Misra.

Genesis of medical college bribery scam

Prasad Institute of Medical Sciences was one among 46 institutions to be barred by the Union government from admitting students for medical courses for two academic years starting from 2017. This followed an MCI report on their substandard infrastructural facilities and failure to meet the required criteria.

However, since August, 2017, the college has been granted many reliefs by both the Supreme Court and Allahabad high court.

August 1, 2017: A Supreme Court bench headed by the chief justice ordered the government to re-evaluate the recommendations of the MCI regarding the college. However, when the Centre, through its oversight committee, heard the college afresh on August 3, following the court order, it stuck to its earlier stand of denying the college permission to admit students and permitted the MCI to encash the bank guarantee of Rs 2 crore the college had given.

August 24, 2017: The Prasad Education Trust moved the SC against the Centre’s decision but later withdrew it. The court’s bench, again headed by the chief justice, permitted the trust to withdraw its writ petition and allowed it to move the Allahabad high court, which the trust had already approached. The relief granted to one particular college appeared unusual to many as the CJI, around the same time, was hearing cases by many other colleges which had been denied permission to admit students by the Centre.

August 25, 2017: The very next day, the Allahabad high court’s bench headed by Justice Narayan Shukla allowed the trust to conduct admission counselling and told the MCI not to encash its bank guarantee.

August 29, 2017: When the MCI moved the Supreme Court against the high court’s order, Justice Misra’s bench disposed of the trust’s writ petition at the high court but allowed the trust to approach the apex court again under Article 32 of the constitution. The trust said it “does not claim any benefit from the order passed by the high court, except that the MCI is not to encash the bank guarantee.” In disposing of the petition, however, the interim order of the high court that allowed the trust to conduct counselling sessions for prospective students was not set aside.

September 4, 2017: Chief Justice Misra issued notice on the new writ petition filed by the trust.

September 18, 2017 (order uploaded on September 21, 2017): Chief Justice Misra’s bench refuses to renew recognition of the college for the 2017-18 academic session but restrains the MCI from encashing the bank guarantee and said the “Medical Council of India shall send the inspecting team to the institution as per the schedule for consideration of grant of LOP [i.e letter of permission to admit students] for the academic year 2018-2019.” The Centre’s original ban was for 2017-18 and 2018-19.

The September 18 order was uploaded on the court’s website two days after the CBI registered an FIR against Qudussi, Yadav, Agarwala and others for allegedly bribing senior public functionaries. The CBI arrested Qudussi and others and is also probing two Allahabad high court judges – Justice Narayan Shukla and Justice Virendra Kumar. The investigative agency, in subsequent raids, recovered close to Rs 2 crore in cash and several incriminating documents.

What the telephone conversations contain

The CBI’s record of telephonic conversations between the accused persons dated September 3 and 4 make it clear that Yadav, the main lobbyist of the trust, was negotiating with Qudussi and Agarwala to get recognition for the college again while trying to prevent the MCI from encashing the bank guarantee.

Sample this exchange between Vishwanath Agarwala and Qudussi on September 3:

V: Yes I think. In which is theirs, in which temple is it – Temple of Allahabad or Temple of Delhi?

Q: No, No, it is not in any temple yet, now it needs to be.

V: Yes yes Yes! So now you can talk about it, he will do it. About that I have spoken about it there.

Q: Has said for sure (pucca)

V: Yes yes. In that you see one thing…100% this, our person who is our captain, it is being done through the captain, so what is the problem. Tell me?

While this conversation allegedly happened on September 3, 2017, the petition filed by the trust was admitted a day later, on September 4, 2017. The Supreme Court bench issued notice on the petition, which was admitted in the court under Article 32 of the constitution. The unidentified person who was supposed to guarantee a favourable order in the court is being referred to as “captain”.

‘Chai wallah’s government is watching everyone, that is the problem’

The telephone conversations between Qudussi and Vishwanath Agarwala on September 3 and 4 show that the two were discussing the trust’s appeal at the SC and negotiating with Yadav to pay up huge amounts of money. The bribe payers and their would-be recipients also appear to be scared of the “tea-seller’s government” as it is “watching everyone, that is the problem”:

Y: So that day I had gone to the HC because, see brother, that time on/in it money was stuck. No I spoke/said very clearly. That is why I went. From there they/he gave an order. After coming here, they dismissed it. They/he said to file a fresh petition. Under article 32, a fresh petition has been filed. It had a date set, the date was pushed to the 11th by them/him. So what we want is that tomorrow we make your ticket and for that sorry. Vishwanath ji will give it to you, now you get our work done for us.

V: No, the work is not even 100% but 500% guarantee. But the luggage will have to be given before and he/they is/are saying no to meeting because because the government that is going on – Tea seller’s government. That is watching everyone, that is the problem.

Y: I wont make him meet. I don’t want to meet.

V: Yes, not for meeting. That they/he will go home, they/he said that they/he don’t believe they will see everything/does not believe everything he sees. That the work will be done 100%, the conversation happened then. So that’s why I went running and came running.

Y: No, no, it is okay. Agarwal ji, so we will send your ticket. Tomorrow you come, Okay, you tell us tomorrow.

Y: Arey, I wanted from first that confirmation happens. Everyone is weird. So I want that we have good relations with the judge. So that we trust the judge’s words more.

V: No no, we/I will confirm it. Otherwise we/I wouldn’t say it, because we are doing this work – (Resto ji?) It is very necessary for the trade. Medical people are necessary, there is no problem in that. But the people there, nothing will happen if prasad is not given.

Y: No, prasad will be needed. We will give the prasad. We have to give the prasad.

V: Work will be done 100%, but I wont go to speak tomorrow or day after. You keep the luggage/stuff ready…if given we people will get it done 100%…

…Q: They say they filed their petition. Today they have given a date for Monday. They are asking when – how much will it be and how and secondly how can they believe their work will be done for sure.

V: Are these those medical people?

Q: Yes yes

V: Yes, so the date is listed for the coming Monday?

V: Yes, so that is review?

Q: No no it is a petition under Article 32

V: Yes yes yes. There is no such assurance/guarantee. If they give the stuff, work would be done 100%.

Q: No, he is saying that if money is there, then someone should go inside the house, someone should talk.

V: No that is right, but it is not okay when he is not trusting us.

Q: No no they are trusting us, but they are saying if the matter is with a third person, then how will it be done. Because they are saying if our work is not done our situation would become very bad.

V: No no, work will be done. Otherwise are we people who want to jump into fire? Tell them work will be done 100% that’s why he/they are being helped.

Q: Yes, you see this thing. Hahaha.

V: Yes, yes, work would be done 100%. There we people spoke to them and that’s why we are speaking to you, otherwise we wouldn’t be saying this.

Both of them were speaking about the “Monday” after September 4, i.e September 11, when the matter of the trust was listed. On September 11, the bench headed by Justice Misra directed the matter to be listed on September 18, when he gave his final ruling.

Fierce bargaining over amounts

Throughout the conversations, the three accused were heard bargaining for the money that needed to be transferred. For instance, in this part of the conversation between Yadav, Vishwanath Agarwala and Qudussi, they were talking about how the money needs to be sent to a “judge” and where it should be given. The money appears to be referred to in various terms like “bahis” (books), “gamla” (pots) and “prasad” (offering).

Y: Tell me what has to be given. I have only one college, I can’t trust another.

V: Will get it done for 1.

Y: Tell me clearly, what will I have to give. We don’t have much capacity. Make us speak, if boss/sir is there, then make us speak. I will talk to boss/sir.

V: No there is no probe. We/I will get the work done.

V: No they/he said for 1. I had spoken for 1, they/he said three. 2.5 has to be given there, 50 will be kept with us.

Q: So how much advance has to be given.

V: Advance now…They/he said at that time, for review petition give 100 people. If the review is allowed, then even you will get to know, then we…

Q: Then you do one thing. You do one thing. His is listed for Monday, postpone the date by 3-4 days.

V: So we will send a few people. So 3-4…if you give 2 people then we will extend the date by 3-4 days.

V: On Monday, we will finalise. They give us the luggage/stuff (saamaan) – some 2-2.5; no problem some order will be given. Papa see here. Neither will it put you in a problem nor will it put me. Because there the association will talk. Won’t reach, otherwise we will be stuck in a lot of problems. If we are not able to do the work, then we will return the luggage/stuff that is here. There is no chance that work will not be done. There we have spoken clearly, that it will be allowed.

Q: Here, talk to them/him.

V: Yes, conversation was clear. Calculated as per three. They/he wont do it for less than three.

Y: Hello.

V: Yes, we had spoken last time also. Sir for 1, they were asking for three. If three is given total will be allowed to those ask for prayers. I told him, he was talking about 5 at the time. They/he were speaking of 15 bricks, even last time they were speaking about that only.

Y: So all the money well go in advance.

V: Sir, I don’t want to take any risk here, because it is a 100% guarantee. No ifs and buts. Once work is done, sir will sit for 10-15 months. Get 14-15 jobs done, even you will believe it. He will do it 101%.

Y: So when should I give, tell me.

V: Date is 11th, so if it can reach us by 6-7th, we will get it done. Your work will get done by the 11th.

Y: Do with with 2.5 yaar, my capacity is only till 2.5. Get it done.

V: Sir, I don’t lie. First it was 5 for 18, then after talking, in the end it came to calculation 3 for 15. We convinced him that 4 more would come.

Y: Listen, you take 2 from us now and as the order is given. WE will get the admission; we will send 1 crore to the judge. Your place, Qudussi sir’s place, do it this way.

V: Sir, I will talk and confirm it in the morning.

The transcripts with the CBI show that negotiations were underway to pay bribes and affect the outcome in the matter. It is not clear whether the plan was successful or even what came of it. What is known is that the unfolding of the case favoured the Prasad Education Trust at each step.

CBI’s preliminary enquiry report

The CBI, however, has clearly alleged that one judge at the Allahabad high court did receive an “illegal gratification”.

The preliminary enquiry (PE) report filed by the CBI on 8 September, 2017 – a section of which is with The Wire – has mentioned the name of one judge of Allahabad HC for receiving “illegal gratification” from Qudussi.

Extract from the CBI’s preliminary enquiry report of September 8, 2017 in the medical college bribery scam case.

“Source has informed that Shri I. M Qudussi approached Hon’ble Justice Narayan Shukla, high court of Allahabad at Lucknow bench for managing the matter. Source has also informed that Shri I.M Qudussi and Shri B.P Yadav met Hon’ble Justice Shri Narayan Shukla in the morning of 25.08-2017 at his residence in Lucknow regarding the matter and delivered illegal gratification,” the PE report says. It adds:

“Source has further informed that on 25.08.2017, an order was passed in petition, Misc.Bench No. 19870 of 2017 filed by Prasad Education Trust, by a Bench which included Hon’ble Justice Shri Narayan Shukla. The order directed the petitioner’s college shall not be delisted from the list of colleges notified from counselling till the next date of listing, i.e 31.08.2017. Further, the encashment of bank guarantee was also stayed till the next day of listing.”

What is more interesting is that Yadav appeared to be pressuring Qudussi to get Justice Shukla to return the “gratification” after the petition at the high court was disposed of by the Supreme Court bench on August 29, 2017.

“Source has further informed that after the aforesaid developments [i.e. after the HC petition was disposed of], Shri B.P Yadav has been pursuing Shri I.M Qudussi and Shrimati Bhawana Pandey to get back the illegal gratification paid to Justice Shri Narayan Shukla. Source has further informed that Shri I.M Qudussi further contacted Justice Shri Narayan Shukla for the return of the amount of illegal gratification earlier paid to him. Source informed that Justice Shri Narayan Shukla assured Shri I.M Qudussi that he will return a part of illegal gratification previously received by him shortly,” the CBI enquiry report said.

CJI ‘refused CBI permission to proceed against high court judge’

Sources have confirmed to The Wire that the CBI filed its preliminary enquiry report on September 8, 2017. They also said that CBI officers presented the transcripts and other documents to Chief Justice of India Misra on September 6 seeking an FIR against Justice Shukla. However, they said that the CJI denied permission to the agency to register an FIR, thereby possibly preventing the investigative agency from arresting Justice Shukla red-handed when he reportedly returned some money to Qudussi on September 7.

Sources claimed that the CBI’s legal officers have recorded in writing the CJI’s refusal to permit the agency to register an FIR against Justice Shukla. It has been reported that the CJI has ordered an in-house enquiry against Justice Shukla on the basis of some orders that he passed in a similar case regarding a different medical college. However, no such action appears to have been initiated against him in the case related to the Prasad Education Trust.

The Wire will update this story with any response we receive from the Chief Justice of India or his office about the issue of the CBI’s request for permission to file an FIR against Justice Shukla.

While more details are yet to emerge on whether the CBI’s preliminary enquiry report is based only upon a “source” or a thorough investigation, it is evident that the medical college sought to resort to underhand dealings in order to have its way in court.

In November last year, the Supreme Court was witness to a raging courtroom debate when a five judge bench formed by the chief justice nullified Justice J. Chelameswar and S. Abdul Nazeer’s decision the previous day to exclude Chief Justice Misra from a constitutional bench related to a petition about judicial corruption that involved the medical college bribery scandal.

The bench of Justices Chelameswar and Nazeer had unprecedentedly agreed to the request of the petitioner, senior advocate Kamini Jaiswal, that Justice Misra not be a part of the bench for the sake of propriety as he had been presiding over the Prasad Education Trust’s cases until now. Jaiswal’s petition demanded the constitution of a special investigation team monitored by the court to probe the alleged scam. She had filed the petition after the CBI’s FIR revealed details of negotiations between middlemen, a retired high court judge and senior public functionaries.

However, the bench formed by the chief justice said that he alone had the power to assign a case and that no other judge could take that decision, leading to a huge controversy at the time. The leaked CBI transcripts, coming at a time when four senior judges have raised questions about the Supreme Court’s functioning under Chief Justice Misra, is likely to fuel further debate about the issues raised in their press conference.

§

Full CBI Transcript on 3 September, 2017 between Qudussi and Vishwanath Agarwala

(English translation of conversations in Hindi)

Q: We talked about the other one

V: The Yadav one

Q: Yes

V: Yes I think. In which is theirs, in which temple is it – Temple of Allahabad or Temple of Delhi

Q: No, No, it is not in any temple yet, now it needs to be.

V: Yes yes Yes! So now you can talk about it, he will do it. About that I have spoken about it there.

Q: Has said for sure (pucca)

V: Yes yes. In that you see one thing…100% this, our person who is our captain, it is being done through the captain, so what is the problem. Tell me?

V: No No No No! Will we experiment at your age, at this age also I will not experiment. If I do, I will put you in a problem. We don’t have like this. No No. If you take the stuff, he will get it immediately, there will be no problem in that.

V: Even if there is a problem he is himself saying, what he talked about yesterday, he said, 100 people will give…review will be allowed, then for the rest for one company they will give 2.5 or 3 you will take, 50 you people keep, he was saying like this, whatever two or three companies are there, he will do.

Q: Ok Ok

V: If 100 people give first, then that review will be allowed

V: This one of his…which he was saying…

Q: How many, about how many bahi (books) will there be, around approximately?

V: How dishonest he is, that you and he can guess, here he will give 100 books and the rest of the books, he will keep with you, after it is done, will forward it.

Q: Alright

V: In how many books is he becoming willing, see 500 books or 400 books.

Q: You tell then will speak to him or you tell otherwise speak to him.

V: He knows that we people say ‘bahis’ (books). 500 books, you tell them, 500 gamla (pots)! We will say 200 gamla there, 100 gamla we will give, 100 we will give later.

V: 500 tell him to do. That work is a very difficult work…we should also get, you and I!

Q: Alright, alright, alright.

V: Yes that will be done for sure. Have had a complete talk, there is no problem.

Q: Ok so tomorrow we will meet.

V: Now only one thing father is saying, one thing he is saying that, this captain of ours has…all over India…whatever work there is , he is willing to do.

V: Yes, yes yes, for sure we will get it done.

§ 

CBI Transcript on 4 September, 2017 between Qudussi, Agarwala and Yadav

(English translation of conversations in Hindi)

Q: I am saying that I have someone I know from before or I am saying that someone I know from before has approached me.

Q: They say they filed their petition. Today they have given a date for Monday. They are asking when – how much will it be and how and secondly how can they believe their work will be done for sure.

V: Are these those medical people?

Q: Yes yes

V: Yes, so the date is listed for the coming Monday?

V: Yes, so that is review?

Q: No no it is a petition under article 32

V: Yes yes yes. There is no such assurance/guarantee. If they give the stuff, work would be done 100%.

Q: No, he is saying that if money is there, then someone should go inside the house, someone should talk.

V: No that is right, but it is not okay when he is not trusting us.

Q: No no they are trusting us, but they are saying if the matter is with a third person, then how will it be done. Because they are saying if our work is not done our situation would become very bad.

V: No no work will be done. Otherwise are we people who want to jump into fire. Tell them work will be done 100% that’s why he/they are being helped.

Q: Yes, you see, you this think. Hahaha.

V: Yes, yes work would be done 100%. There we people spoke to them and that’s why we are speaking to you, otherwise we wouldn’t be saying this.

Yadav enters the conversation

Y: Yes, sir, very very sorry. I left that day. I had gone to the High Court.

V: Ha, yes, yes, yes.

Y: Recognise me? This is D.P. Yadav speaking.

Y: So that day I had gone to the HC because, see brother, that time on/in it money was stuck. No I spoke/said very clearly. That is why I went. From there they/he gave an order. After coming here, they dismissed it. They/he said to file a fresh petition. Under article 32, a fresh petition has been filed. It had a date set, the date was pushed to the 11th by them/him. So what we want is that tomorrow we make your ticket and for that sorry. Vishwanath ji will give it to you, now you get our work done for us.

V: No, the work is not even 100% but 500% guarantee. But the luggage will have to be given before and he/they is/are saying no to meeting because because the government that is going on – Tea seller’s government. That is watching everyone, that is the problem.

Y: I wont make him meet. I don’t want to meet.

V: Yes, not for meeting. That they/he will go home, they/he said that they/he don’t believe they will see everything/does not believe everything he sees. That the work will be done 100%, the conversation happened then. So that’s why I went running and came running.

Y: No, no, it is okay. Agarwal ji, so we will send your ticket. Tomorrow you come, Okay, you tell us tomorrow.

Y: Arey, I wanted from first that confirmation happens. Everyone is weird. So I want that we have good relations with the judge. So that we trust the judge’s words more.

V: No no, we/I will confirm it. Otherwise we/I wouldn’t say it, because we are doing this work – (Resto ji?) It is very necessary for the trade. Medical people are necessary, there is no problem in that. But the people there, nothing will happen if prasad is not given.

Y: No, prasad will be needed. We will give the prasad. We have to give the prasad.

V: Work will be done 100%, but I wont go to speak tomorrow or day after. You keep the luggage/stuff ready…if given we people will get it done 100%.

Y: Meaning advance will have to be given.

V: Yes, advance has to be given to them/him. Otherwise why will they/he do it, you say. There is no written – reading in these matters. All this runs on the trust/belief in this world. They/he will do it 100%.

Y: Tell me what has to be given. I have only one college I can’t trust another.

V: Will get it done for 1.

Y: Tell me clearly, what will I have to give. We don’t have much capacity. Make us speak, if boss/sir is there then make us speak. I will talk to boss/sir.

V: No there is no probe,. We/I will get the work done.

V: No they/he said for 1. I had spoken for 1, they/he said three. 2.5 has to be given there, 50 will be kept with us.

Q: So how much advance has to be given.

V: Advance now…They/he said at that time, for review petition give 100 people. If the review is allowed, then even you will get to know, then we…

Q: Then you do one thing. You do one thing. His is listed for Monday, postpone the date by 3-4 days.

V: So we will send a few people. So 3-4…if you give 2 people then we will extend the date by 3-4 days.

V: On Monday, we will finalise. They give us the luggage/stuff (saamaan) – some 2-2.5; no problem some order will be given. Papa see here. Neither will it put you in a problem nor will it put me. Because there the association will talk. Won’t reach, otherwise we will be stuck in a lot of problems. If we are not able to do the work, then we will return the luggage/stuff that is here. There is no chance that work will not be done. There we have spoken clearly, that it will be allowed.

Q: Here, talk to them/him.

V: Yes, conversation was clear. Calculated as per three. They/he wont do it for less than three.

Y: Hello.

V: Yes, we had spoken last time also. Sir for 1, they were asking for three. If three is given total will be allowed to those ask for prayers. I told him, he was talking about 5 at the time. They/he were speaking of 15 bricks, even last time they were speaking about that only.

Y: So all the money well go in advance.

V: Sir, I don’t want to take any risk here, because it is a 100% guarantee. No ifs and buts. Once work is done, sir will sit for 10-15 months. Get 14-15 jobs done, even you will believe it. He will do it 101%.

Y: So when should I give, tell me.

V: Date is 11th, so if it can reach us by 6-7th, we will get it done. Your work will get done by the 11th.

Y: Do with with 2.5 yaar, my capacity is only till 2.5. Get it done.

V: Sir, I don’t lie. First it was 5 for 18, then after talking, in the end it came to calculation 3 for 15. We convinced him that 4 more would come.

Y: Listen, you take 2 from us now and as the order is given. WE will get the admission; we will send 1 crore to the judge. Your place, Qudussi sir’s place, do it this way.

V: Sir, I will talk and confirm it in the morning.

Y: Because even now we a have a money problem. 2, we will give now and 1 rupee give me 5-6 or 7 days. When admission starts, we will send it to sir’s place. Sir, we will take this guarantee, you take 5.

V: I will talk to him, confirm it to you in the morning.

Y: Yes, hello.

V: Yes, Pap. I told him I will talk to you in the morning. He said they will give 2 now and 1…(end)


Note: The story has been edited to add a hyperlink and details from the September 18, 2017 judgment in the timeline

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