Chennai, April 2: The confused expression and the stiff body language underlined an obvious fact: these were no hardened criminals.
Their desperate effort to cover their faces as they were brought into the special CBI court here, and the downward gaze as the judge announced the remand, reflected the changed world of four bright young men who till the other day had been the pride of their families, climbing the ladder of success in a respected profession.
Of the four “kingpins” of the medical entrance exam fraud, three ' P. Satish Kumar, Vijay Kanna and Ravi Kannan ' are from middle-class families, although Kanna’s father enjoys some clout as a district-level politician.
The oldest, 30-year-old paediatrician N. Bhaskar, alone comes from a “very rich and affluent background”. His uncle runs a private engineering college and the family owns large tracts of land at Rasipuram in the poultry belt of Namakkal district.
Of the Rs 18 lakh seized by the CBI from the accused in raids so far, Rs 4 lakh was recovered from Bhaskar’s premises in Pondicherry, where the MD is a senior resident doctor with the premier Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Post-graduate Medical Education and Research (Jipmer).
Ravi Kannan, also senior resident doctor with Jipmer, is the mystery man. The 28-year-old from the temple city of Madurai, son of a block development officer, comes from a “typical Tamil middle-class family”.
CBI sources said the MD in physiology had applied for this year’s all-India post-graduate medical entrance exam again and made it to a Chennai centre armed with his admit card. He sat down with his question paper “but didn’t take the exam”.
How long did he spend there' Was he the one who scanned the questions with a pen-size camera and threw the gadget outside to be picked up, its contents fed into a laptop and the answers SMSed to candidates' The sources weren’t telling.
The CBI has recovered the laptop the gang had allegedly used and a police team has left for Pondicherry to find the camera.
Vijay Kanna, at 26 the youngest of the gang, has an intriguing profile. The second-year MD anaesthesiology student of Jipmer is the son of a small trader from Karur, known for its handloom exports. But the father is also a district-level leader of the PMK, a partner in the ruling coalition in Delhi.
A CBI official was quick to say this didn’t mean the case had a political angle.
“After all, anyone can have a leaning towards this or that political party. But if the investigation warrants it, the political angle will be looked into,” he said.
“But one thing is certain ' all four are equally in it. We are recovering money from all of them.”
The tips that led to the cash haul came mainly from Satish Kumar, a second-year MD paediatrics student at Madurai Medical College, whose home in Erode yielded some cash, a gold ring and chain during the search on Wednesday evening.
Kumar’s is a “very ordinary family with little means”, a source said. His father Perumal works for the postal department’s railway mail service.
“He must have just wanted to help his friends ' that’s how he got involved,” a family friend said, struggling to make sense of the “very bright” student’s fall from grace.
CBI officials are less sympathetic. “It is quick money they were after,” one of them said. “They knew that this (cheating) could be pulled off and that there were people ready to bite the bait. The one thing they didn’t realise is that the party would be short-lived.”