The Telegraph
Thursday , December 1 , 2016

Seat-for-cash letter faces forgery test

Manju Rathi, the 45-year-old mother of two under investigation for allegedly selling seats in top Calcutta schools, fell foul of the parent who got her arrested after handing him a purported "confirmation" printed on the letterhead of a reputable institute and signed by its secretary.

When the parent went to admit his child to the school on the basis of the letter, he was apparently told that it had been forged. Police have yet to verify the authenticity of the document, sources said.

Investigators on Wednesday collected samples of Manju's handwriting for an expert opinion on whether the signature on the document was the school secretary's or forged by her.

The school has told the police that the document was a forged one.

Manju's handwriting would be sent to the Questioned Document Examination Bureau at the CID headquarters in Bhabani Bhavan, where it would be matched with the signature on the allegedly forged document.

It could take anything from a week to a month for the handwriting report to arrive.

Police sources quoted Manju as saying during her interrogation that she had arranged seats for 12 students in this particular school since the start of the year.

A senior police officer not involved in the investigation into the cash-for-seats racket said that if the document turned out to be forged, the focus would shift away from the school in this particular case.

"But if she was successful in getting students admitted, that possibly could not have happened without any insider help. Otherwise, it would have to be proved that she had been forging documents all these years. But in the event of forgery, schools would have known about it the moment someone tried to admit a child on the basis of a fake document."

Manju has been booked on charges of cheating, criminal conspiracy and a section of the Indian Penal Code that deals with "forgery of valuable security, will or authority to make or transfer any valuable security or to receive any money".

This is based on the complaint by a parent that she took Rs 2 lakh from him by promising a seat for his son in the school, but failed to deliver and did not return the money.

Sources said the police were in the process of collecting the names and other details of the 12 students that Manju claims to have arranged seats for in that school.

She was produced in court on Wednesday and her police remand extended till December 5. Her lawyers told the court that she was ready to return the money she had taken from the complainant.

Since Manju's arrest last Saturday, the names of at least 10 schools and one college have emerged as possible collaborators in the cash-for-seats racket.

Sources said she had provided details to investigators about how she got around 60 students admitted to four of these schools during the current academic year. But her success rate had lately dipped - down from her average of 100 admissions every year.

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