Cousins Bikash Shaw and Rahul Shaw, both college students, were arrested on Thursday night from Sree Kishna Pally near Hudco in Ultadanga after a bundle of 40 fake notes of Rs 100 denomination were seized from them.
The duo — in their 20s — said in their defence that they found the notes by the roadside.
The two belong to well-off families in the Golabari area of Howrah, police said.
They had given Rs 100 at a paan stall after buying two packets of gutkha, but started walking away without taking the change.
The two packets hardly cost Rs 10 and the shopkeeper immediately got suspicious. So he felt the note and realised that it was thicker and coarser than the original.
Passersby caught them when the shopkeeper raised an alarm. They were later handed over to the police.
“The duo said they picked up the money from the roadside and were trying to spend the windfall,” said a senior officer of Maniktalla police station.
“Since they are from respectable families it is important to know how they got the fake notes,” he added.
The top brass at Lalbazar has ordered an investigation to find out how the notes have entered the city.
Officers said the notes looked almost real in colour and print but the paper was slightly coarse. The watermark was missing, too.
The police said Bikash is a student of an Amherst Street college while his cousin studies in an institute in Sealdah. Both are first-year undergraduate students and stay at a rented accommodation in the Narkeldanga area.
The police suspect that the youths went to Ultadanga on Thursday evening to check if they could use one of the fake notes at a paan shop before spending the bundle.
“The father of one of the accused owns a gold jewellery shop in the Golabari area of Howrah. Prima facie there is no reason to believe that the two college students belong to a racket. Still, we will explore all angles before arriving at a conclusion. It is likely that someone was using them as mules to carry fake money from one destination to another,” the officer said.
They were produced at Sealdah court on Friday and remanded in police custody till September 1.