Vigilance Bureau arrests former Registrars and Superintendent of Punjab State Pharmacy Council for committing irregularities in issuing D-Pharmacy certificates

Accused Registrars, officials overlooked mandatory verification process during registration of Pharmacists

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The Punjab Vigilance Bureau (VB), during its vigorous campaign against corruption in the state, has unearthed a big scam in the Punjab State Pharmacy Council (PSPC) and apprehended two former Registrars and one Superintendent for their involvement in committing severe irregularities related to the registration and issuance of certificates to Pharmacists, allegedly in collaboration with privately owned pharmacy institutions.

Disclosing this here today a spokesperson of the state VB said, the arrested individuals are Parveen Kumar Bhardwaj, Dr. Tejbir Singh (both former Registrars), and Ashok Kumar Accountant (presently Superintendent), following their implication in a vigilance enquiry no. 04/2019.

He added that Parveen Kumar Bhardwaj served as Registrar of PSPC on various occasions from 2001 to 2009 and from 24.12.2013 to 25.3.2015, while Dr. Tejbir Singh held the position from 23.8.2013 to 24.12.2013. Ashok Kumar, Accountant, was also involved, according to the findings of the vigilance enquiry.

He further informed that the investigation revealed crucial oversights in the verification process during the registration of Pharmacists. Investigations led to the discovery of numerous fake D-Pharmacy certificates during routine inspections. It became evident that stringent protocols and mandated educational qualifications were disregarded by the accused Registrars and officials during the admission process for D-Pharmacy courses across 105 pharmacy colleges in the Punjab.

The Punjab State Technical Education Board, responsible for conducting online counseling for admissions in state government colleges, encountered persistent vacancies in private institutions. To fill these seats, private colleges allegedly admitted students from other states in connivance with the said Registrars and officials of PSPC without obtaining mandatory migration certificates, accepting significant bribes from unsuspecting candidates. Moreover, several students gained admission to the D-pharmacy course by possessing the requisite 10+2 educational qualifications in medical or non-medical streams privately whereas it has to be passed regularly and by attending science practical.

The spokesperson informed that during the probe it has came to light that the officials and employees of the Punjab State Pharmacy Council (PSPC) collaborated with privately owned pharmacy colleges, allowing admissions without mandatory migration certificates and without verifying the 10+2 certificates, all in exchange for substantial bribes. Furthermore, discrepancies emerged regarding the approval and registration process of certificates issued by education boards accredited by the Council of Boards of School Education in India (COBSE). The PSPC officials, in collusion with principals and organizers of private colleges, facilitated the registration of candidates from these boards, allowing them to secure employment in various departments and establish medical shops on the basis of such fake certificates.

Revealing more he further added that accused Parveen Kumar Bhardwaj's services were terminated on 31.3.2011 for malpractice related to fake admissions, counterfeit certificates, record manipulation, and omission from the dispatch register. However, he was later reappointed as Registrar on 24.12.2013, albeit canceled due to a High Court writ petition on 25.3.2015.

He further added that verification process conducted by the Director, Medical Education and Research (DRME), and Medical Colleges in Amritsar, Faridkot, and Patiala uncovered substantial irregularities in admissions and PSPC's registration procedures. Reports from Amritsar and Faridkot revealed fraudulent practices in admissions and registration at the PSPC.

He further informed that the investigation uncovered fake certificates of 143 students between 2005 and 2022. These students completed their D-Pharmacy diplomas in private colleges, leveraging their connections with officials of the Punjab Technical Education Board.

Despite multiple letters from 2016 to 2023 requesting remarks on verification reports, the PSPC failed to furnish necessary remarks on numerous occasions, highlighting the pending nature of the inquiry. Additionally, the role of Government Medical College Patiala in verifying reports for certain districts remains unclear due to the absence of provided lists.
Out of total 3078 verifications, the PSPC provided remarks for only 453 pharmacists without specifying the nature of the identified fraudulent documents. 
Moreover, discrepancies emerged regarding students who obtained D-Pharmacy certificates after completing their diplomas from the Punjab State Technical Education Board and private colleges despite pursuing 10+2 from out-of-state education boards, indicating potential malpractices in verification and registration by the PSPC.

He added that the involvement of Dr. Abhininder Singh Thind, Dr. Tejbir Singh, and Parveen Kumar Bhardwaj during their tenures as Registrars led to the issuance of numerous fake pharmacy certificates, potentially compromising public health and safety.

Five zones submitted verification reports to the DRME, highlighting irregularities. However, apart from Faridkot, the reports lacked clear judgments regarding these anomalies, with the PSPC report still pending.

A letter from the Pharmacy Council of India (PCI), New Delhi, emphasized the necessity of scrutinizing each application for pharmacist registration, including the verification of educational credentials and compliance with statutory conditions under the Pharmacy Act 1948 but the PSPC Registrars and officials omitted these mandatory conditions. Additionally, it was discovered that Parveen Kumar Bhardwaj allegedly signed two pharmacy certificates for students from the Himachal State Pharmacy Council despite not holding the position of Registrar at that time.

In light of these findings, a case FIR 17 dated 8.12.23 has been registered at VB police station EOW Ludhiana under sections 420, 465, 466, 468, 471, 120-B of IPC. The VB investigation would further scrutinize the roles of other officials, employees, and clerks of PSPC, along with individuals associated with private colleges, he added.