SRM Group Chairman and SRM University Chancellor TR Pachamuthu has been arrested by the Crime Branch of the Chennai police. This comes after more than 100 students said that they had paid money for obtaining a medical seat in SRM college, but were not admitted.
Pachamuthu alias Pari Vendhar, who is also the founder of IJK party, an ally of the BJP was summoned by the police for interrogation late on Thursday night. None of the police officers have, however, confirmed the arrest. He has reportedly been arrested under IPC sections 420 (cheating), 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 34 (common intention). The arrest comes after the Madras High Court asked the Chennai police if there were any political reasons behind not arresting Pachamuthu. The court had also threatened to transfer the probe to another agency.
The case started unravelling after Pachamuthu's close aide Madhan went missing in May this year.
Pachamuthu who had founded one of the biggest private chain of private educational institutions in Tamil Nadu was close to Madhan, who used to act as an agent for the SRM group.
S Madhan, a film producer and Managing Partner of Vendhar Movies had mysteriously gone missing in May this year, leaving behind a suicide note. In the note, Madhan had lamented that though crores of rupees had been collected from parents, they would not be able to keep their promise with NEET coming into force and changing the entire admission process. Madhan had also said in his letter that it was due to the money he brought in that IJK was able to contest elections in Tamil Nadu and Bihar.
Immediately after his disappearance, an aspiring medical studentâ€™s parent Venkatesan filed a complaint at the Chennai police commissionerâ€™s office alleging that Madhan was yet to return Rs 52 lakh taken from him for brokering a medical seat at SRM University. An FIR was lodged against SRM group after another parent approached the police in June. TNM had then reported that the SRM group had submitted a petition to the city police commissioner, urging action against Vendhar movies head S Madhan. He also claimed that Madhan had no connections with the SRM group and was expelled in February from his India Jananayaka Katchi (IJK) party. The SRM group chairman further alleged that Madhan had created fake documents in the companyâ€™s name and forged his signatures.
This opened a floodgate of complaints against SRM Group and its medical colleges.
What went wrong?
The medical college admission process in Tamil Nadu is a well-oiled market, with seats allegedly being sold long before the admission seasons every year. The demand for medical seats is so high that the seats are informally â€˜reservedâ€™ in advance by parents â€“ illegally.
In the case of big colleges, it is alleged that several education agents play the role of middlemen, selling college seats to parents, thereby giving the colleges plausible deniability.
In the case of SRM and producer Madhan, who have been missing for several months now, 102 parents have alleged that it was Madhan who, in the presence of the group chairman TR Pachamuthu, promised them seats and took money from them, but did not deliver. Parents say they were cheated.
But if sale of seats is regular practice, what went wrong this year?\
The Supreme Courtâ€™s decision to make National Entrance and Eligibility Test mandatory for medical admissions, and the subsequent legal tussle between governments and colleges, led to the academic calendar collapsing. So, all the parents who had paid for their seats in advance were left in the lurch because the seats, as allegedly promised by agents and colleges, could not be allotted officially.
This led to a disgruntlement among parents, who have now banded together to take on the colleges.
In May, the Supreme Court had once again ruled that capitation fee is illegal and that commercialisation and exploitation in the education sector is not permissible.