A Financial Express exclusive on Deputy Inspector General S.K.Jaiswal's report on the fake stamp paper scam. Jaiswal concludes that ‘prima facie evidence collected shows clear cut connivance of officers of the ISP in transfer of all appropriate technology, including transfer of stamp designs from original design negatives/positives”. And that “security at ISP is totally lax, and in the absence of internal vigilance mechanism ISP has been completely infiltrated by unscrupulous elements.”
MUMBAI, NOV 18: It is well known that deputy inspector general S K Jaiswal of the special investigation team (SIT) has exposed the “casual and cavalier manner” in which the Maharashtra police investigated what is known as the “stamp paper scam”. Those with a clear association with the scam were let off or listed as witnesses rather than accused; and at one stage the wife and minor daughter of Telgi were sought to be arrested, without gathering adequate evidence against them, apparently designed to extort money from Telgi. In innumerable instances, panchnamas have not been counter-signed by the investigating officer, witnesses have later been turned into accused and crucial evidence has simply been omitted from the case diaries and investigation records.
What is, however, less known is that the police seem to have systematically covered up the involvement of officials from the India Security Press (ISP) at Nashik which is a high security facility authorised to print stamp paper and revenue stamps. In fact, for an entire year after the report was submitted to the Maharashtra government, investigations into the serious security lapses at this high security facility have been cursory and only led to the arrest of some junior officials.
Here is what the Jaiswal report, a copy of which is available to this writer, revealed to Maharashtra government when it handed over its findings last November.
“There was evidence to show the involvement of India Security Press officials in the criminal conspiracy”, the report says. Apparently, the police corresponded with officials of the general manager of the India Security Press in July 2003, but did not bring on record, through the case diary, the nature of this ‘evidence’.
More damningly, it says that although there was enough on record to “carry on further investigation against three officials of the Press — Madhukar Kulthe, Ramchandra Reddy and Nivrutti Abaji Basare - the investigating officials recommended that these officials should only be listed as witnesses. This “extremely dubious” recommendation, according to Mr Jaiswal, is especially significant “in the light of the subsequent arrest of Madhukar Kulthe in August 2002”.
Similarly, he says that the “interrogation of Gangaprakash, general manager of the Indian Security Press” by ACP Mulani was “extremely perfunctorily done” especially in light of the ‘evidence’ recovered in seizures.
The report repeatedly points out that “appropriate attention was not given to further investigate the India Security Press linkages of A K Telgi” and “no effort was made to obtain an expert report from India Security Press”. The report has indicted ACP Mulani for criminal negligence and misconduct.
Jaiswal concludes that ‘prima facie evidence collected shows clear cut connivance of officers of the ISP in transfer of all appropriate technology, including transfer of stamp designs from original design negatives/positives”. And that “security at ISP is totally lax, and in the absence of internal vigilance mechanism ISP has been completely infiltrated by unscrupulous elements.”
Jaiswal’s report also says that “strong regulatory measures need to be put into place by making the Treasury department officials responsible squarely for detecting counterfeit sales in their areas of jurisdiction by monitoring of sales to stamp vendors and from their own offices also, until an alternative system is put in place.
Jaiswal also suggests that the system of licensed stamp vendors needs to be done away with immediately and an alternate system of collecting stamp duty has to be found. Otherwise, he says, “this racket of counterfeit stamps will continue despite detections here and there.” Interestingly, Jaiswal feels that franking machines are not an answer and are also subject to misuse, as has been detected in Karnataka.
The absence of any serious action on these findings would suggest that several people in government, other than the police, were keen on retaining the leaks from ISP so that another Telgi could keep the counterfeiting business alive.
Ironically, Mr Jaiswal says that the special investigation team (SIT) was set up mainly because S M Mushrif (then addl. commissioner of police, Crime) levelled serious allegations against the present police commissioner R S Sharma over the deliberate bungling of the stamp scam investigation. However, the case against Abdul Telgi was so badly documented and so badly investigated, that but for Mushrif’s allegations, “the case would have died a quiet death at the trial stage”.
SIT’s findings have since led to the arrest of several high-ranking police officials and cast serious aspersions on the role and conduct of the Commissioner of Police R S Sharma (who is now on leave). Mr Jaiswal’s report observes that economic crimes of such national significance should, “as a matter of policy” be transferred to specialised agencies such as the CBI or the CID. This was supported by a simple fact: although 12 cases were registered against Telgi and his associates in Maharashtra and 15 in other parts of the country between 1995 to 2002, the entire investigation was carried out in a dubious manner so as to deliberately lead to nowhere.