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NEET Probe: CBI Sends Teams to Bihar, Gujarat, 18 Arrested in Bihar, Jharkhand

NEET Probe: CBI Sends Teams to Bihar, Gujarat, 18 Arrested in Bihar, Jharkhand

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, June 24: Even as the Centre kept insisting that paper leak was a “localised affair,” the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Monday dispatched teams to Bihar and Gujarat’s Godhra to gather evidence in investigating the alleged paper leaks of the National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET-UG) and National Eligibility Test (NET) exams. According to CBI sources, the investigation will proceed through four phases, scrutinizing every aspect from the creation and printing of exam papers to their distribution across various examination centres nationwide. The National Testing Agency (NTA), responsible for conducting these exams, has stringent protocols in place to maintain confidentiality, making any breach a matter of grave concern.

A CBI team from Delhi reached the office of the Economic Offences Unit (EOU) of the Bihar Police in Patna on Monday morning in connection with its investigation into the alleged NEET scam. The EOU, which had been investigating the matter until the Centre ordered a probe by the CBI, has arrested 18 people in connection with the case, they said.

“The CBI officers are collecting evidence related to the case from the EOU,” an official said. The CBI had on Sunday filed an FIR in connection with the alleged irregularities in NEET-UG, which was held on May 5. “The evidence collected by the EOU during the course of investigation include pieces of the burnt question paper recovered from a house in Patna, mobile phones of those arrested, SIM cards, laptops, post-dated cheques and reference questions papers provided by the National Testing Agency (NTA),” an EOU officer said.

All those arrested are in judicial custody in Patna, and the CBI team may take them to Delhi for detailed interrogation by obtaining transit remand from a court here,” he said.

CBI officials are also focusing on individuals directly involved in the preparation, printing, transportation, and secure storage of exam papers before the commencement of exams. These roles entail safeguarding the papers until just hours before the tests begin, highlighting potential points of vulnerability in the process.

Utilising a database of 1,000 names and phone numbers compiled during previous investigations, CBI is tracing those who may be connected to the leaks. This data, obtained from multiple cases including Vyapam educational irregularities in Madhya Pradesh, aids in identifying suspects and establishing communication patterns that could reveal the nexus behind the leaks.

The CBI is also likely to file multiple FIRs in connection with the matter to probe the destruction of evidence, and also register disproportionate assets (DA) cases against some of those accused who are public servants, he said.

“A DA case may be registered against arrested accused Sikander Prasad Yadvendu, a junior engineer in Danapur Town Council, as he reportedly acquired huge assets that are disproportionate to his known source of income,” the officer said.

Yadvendu, originally from Samastipur, has been identified as the prime suspect in the case, he said. “He has a history of involvement in criminal activities. Before becoming a junior engineer in 2012, he worked as a contractor in Ranchi. He was previously implicated in an LED scam worth ₹3 crore. He has served a jail sentence for his role in that case,” the officer said.

Sources said multiple players were involved in the NEET-UG 2024 paper leak case and evidence collected in the course of investigation was being examined. The official also confirmed that a status report on the investigation was sent to the Union Education Ministry on Saturday.

Evidence has been sent to the Central Forensic Laboratory in Delhi and EOU teams are conducting raids at places linked to the case. The team had visited neighbouring Jharkhand and picked up six persons from Deoghar on Friday night. So far, 18 people have been arrested in the case, including 13 from Patna and five from Jharkhand. One person, Kaju alias Prashant Kumar, has been not shown in the list of arrested persons yet.

“Though we received the details from the National Testing Agency [NTA] late, we have conducted the follow-up investigation. Our team went to a few places in Jharkhand, including Ranchi, Hazaribagh and Deoghar. We got so much information, a lot of things were seized and many statements recorded under Section 161 of the CrPC. At present, the investigation is at a very sensitive stage,” the source said.

The official also said many aspects were being looked into and teams were scouring places of suspects for corroborative evidence. The role of Nalanda resident Sanjeev Mukhiya, who had been arrested in earlier paper leak cases, was under scanner. Mukhiya was arrested for leaking a paper of the constable recruitment exam conducted by the Bihar Public Service Commission in 2016.

Mukhiya is believed to be the kingpin in the NEET case and presently absconding. “Mukhiya is part of an organised crime syndicate and there are multiple players involved in it. So, calling him the kingpin is premature but he also had some role because he had already been involved in the earlier paper leak cases. He had a role and we have leads in that direction,” official said.

The official said the EOU got crucial evidence at the Oasis School in Jharkhand’s Hazaribagh, one of the exam centres the team visited on Friday and recorded the statement of the examination controller.

“The NTA also confirmed there was a connection because the serial number of the partially burnt question paper which we found from the play school in Khemnichak locality of Patna matched the question papers distributed in Oasis School. An inter-State professional gang is involved in the case. We will hand over the case files to the Central Bureau of Investigation [CBI] once they take up the case,” the official said.



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