After the signature of a senior official of the Directorate General of Shipping was forged in a ‘showcause notice’ issued to a maritime training institute in Dehradun, the office of the former has approached the Mumbai Police with a case of cheating and forgery.
The institute, which is not recognised by the office of the Director General of Shipping, contacted their office in Kanjurmarg about receiving the showcause notice, which is when the staff realised that the signature of an additional director general in the directorate had been forged. As a similar incident had occurred in the past, the official approached the local Kanjurmarg police station.
An officer said that on August 1, ADG Sandeep Awasthi, the complainant, received a call from a representative of an international maritime training institute based in Dehradun. The caller told Awasthi that he had received a showcause notice from the office of the DG-Shipping, undersigned by him. “The notice said the training institute is an unauthorised academy and is in violation of rules. It added that the institute had 30 days’ time to reply to the notice. The way the notice was drafted, it would give the impression of being issued by a government department. The notice had Awasthi’s signature,” said a senior officer at Kanjurmarg police station.
Talking to The Indian Express, Awasthi said, “Somebody called me in the office and informed me about the showcause notice issued in my name. I told them that it would be a matter of the training branch and I do not hold charge of that branch. I checked from the other branches and found that no such notice had been issued. In fact, the institute is not recognised by the DGS so there is no way we could send a notice.” He added, “The caller then sent me the notice and it appeared that someone had copied and pasted my signature from circulars that are uploaded on the website and bear my signature.”
Awasthi then consulted his senior who informed him of another incident that had taken place at the Mercantile Marine Department of Mumbai a month ago. “In that case, someone had used the signature of an official and issued a fraud circular that was then spread on WhatsApp amongst general public. Hence, we decided to register a complaint with the police. Following this, I approached the local Kanjurmarg police station where an FIR was registered.”
The police registered a case under sections of forgery, defamation and relevant sections of the Information Technology Act. The ADG said given the misuse of signatures on documents posted online, they are considering whether documents containing signatures of officials should be put up online in the future.
An officer investigating the matter said they were trying to trace the location from where the showcause notice was sent to the Dehradun institute. “We will also be talking to the director of the Dehradun-based institute. We suspect someone was trying to cheat them by making them believe that they were on the wrong side of the law. Investigations are on and we should be able to track down the accused soon.”