That the multi-crore stamp paper scam knows no boundaries was made clear by the alarm bells that rang loud in the corridors of administrative and judicial authority in Calcutta on Wednesday.
First, the police story. Last August, the cops had stumbled upon a fake stamp paper racket that led to the arrest of two persons by the detective department (case no: 156, registered with Cossipore police station). An elaborate investigation followed, but in the absence of the ‘kingpin’, who the police failed to trace, it hit a dead-end.
All that the cops did then was to point one accusing finger beyond the eastern boundary — Bangladesh, from where the racket was being allegedly run — and another across the far north-western border — Pakistan, from where the ubiquitous ISI was said to be masterminding operations.
Early last year, the state CID received an urgent message from police in Karnataka, that “operatives” in Bengal were involved in a nationwide fake stamp paper racket. A team from Karnataka touched down in town, carried out raids in various parts of the state and even arrested two suspects.
“But nothing much materialised,” said then special inspector-general (CID) V.V. Thambi. Once again, police decided that it was a racket being run from Bangladesh and that there was precious little that could be done.
But now, city police have been forced to sit up and take serious notice. “It’s time we re-examined all previous cases, in view of the Telgi scam,” said R.K. Mohanti, additional director-general of the CID. “We now know that the scam has assumed national proportions and is not just restricted to a couple of states… We are monitoring the situation and keeping a watch on all those connected with the procurement and sale of stamp papers here.”
And then, there’s the judiciary. The West Bengal Bar Council held a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the legal implications of the scam. “We have appealed to both the state and the central governments that a screening process be set up here to examine all stamp papers in circulation,” said executive committee member Saradindu Biswas. “Otherwise, not only will the legal process be undermined, the government will also end up losing a lot of money.”
Biswas said that in September, a bunch of fake stamp papers had been discovered in Sealdah court and the matter brought to the notice of the sub-divisional judicial magistrate, who had asked the North 24-Parganas police to probe the matter.
“Three persons, apparently with Bangladesh links, were arrested, but no headway was made,” said Biswas.