Banned Medical Colleges Allegedly Used Journalist to Bribe Health Ministry Officials

According to a CBI investigation, medical colleges debarred by the Supreme Court paid health ministry officials large sums to try and get the order lifted.

New Delhi: Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officers tracking the calls of certain management officials at medical colleges say they have uncovered a nexus between the officials and “unknown public servants” at the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. They were apparently “trying to obtain favourable orders from the government officials”.

The medical colleges in question had been debarred by the Supreme Court from admitting any students for a couple of years because of sub-standard facilities.

Questions about role of journalist 

Preliminary investigation by the CBI had also revealed that a senior editor with a well-known Hindi news channel allegedly played a role in the deals being struck. Though the name of the editor, who is known to be close to an influential politician in the current establishment, has not been mentioned in the FIR, sources said he was asked by his channel to stand down till the air is cleared. The channel apparently did not want to be seen as supporting him if he is summoned by the CBI for questioning in the case.

‘Illegal gratification to influence public servants’

The FIR in the case was registered by the CBI on August 3, 2017 under sections 120-B of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 8 and 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act for criminal conspiracy and taking and offering illegal gratification by corrupt and illegal means to influence public servants.

In its report, the police superintendent, CBI, stated that two of the accused, Narender Singh and Kunwar Nishant Singh, both residents of Vasant Kunj in Delhi, were managing the affairs of the World College of Medical Sciences and Research and Hospital in Jhajjar, Haryana.

This college, as per the CBI, was one of the colleges which have been barred by the government from admitting medical students for the next one or two years because they were providing “substandard facilities” or because there was “non-fulfilment of the required quota”.

The ministry had first barred 23 medical colleges for not abiding by the standards set by the Medical Council of India. Subsequently, it had in July this year banned 32 private medical colleges from admitting students for two years. The ministry had also made the colleges forfeit a security deposit of Rs 2 crore each, while allowing 4,000 undergraduate students to continue studying at these institutes.

However, the CBI probe has shown that the action against the medical colleges probably provided a perfect way for some top functionaries and middlemen to make money on the sly, while overall the ministry gave the impression that it was out to clean and streamline the system.

Accused were in touch with ‘unknown public servants’

The CBI said the two had been pursuing the matter through regular meetings in New Delhi and that 23 colleges had also challenged the debarment in the Supreme Court. However, as the apex court had directed the government to consider afresh the materials on record, quoting sources the CBI information stated that “the above mentioned persons have been trying to get the orders of debarment overturned through the ministry and in this regard have been contacting various persons who have assured them of helping them in this regard in lieu of huge illegal gratification for the concerned unknown public servants”.

About the other persons, Vaibhav Sharma and V.K. Sharma, both residents of Sector 44, Noida and not directly linked to the medical colleges in question, who have also been named as accused in the FIR, the CBI stated that the Singhs were in touch with the Sharmas, “who further through their close contacts are claiming proximity with the senior functionaries of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and have given assurance to the college management for assistance in getting favourable orders.”

Noting that “however, huge illegal gratification has been demanded by them in this regard”, the CBI stated that the four accused were trying to obtain favourable orders from the government officials. The agency, quoting a “source”, also stated that “the illegal gratification was likely to be delivered to Vaibhav Sharma and V.K. Sharma for influencing and inducing senior functionaries of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare by corrupt or illegal means through their contacts”.

The case, being investigated by inspector Yasir Arafat, has exposed a deep nexus between high-ranking ministry functionaries and middlemen who have been operating in the corridors of power and helping businesses get a legal cloak for their unlawful operations.

Kunwar Nishant and the Sharmas were arrested last Saturday and placed in five-day police custody, according to a DNA report.