The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has charged the former head of Government College of Art and Craft (GCAC), Deepali Bhattacharya, and Dhanbad-based art dealer Jayanta Banerjee with duping the government and others by exhibiting fake Tagore paintings in 2011.
“They made a conspiracy of cheating by exhibiting forged or fake paintings to deceive the government and others,” the CID charge sheet stated. It was submitted in the city civil court on September 24. Eminent painter Jogen Choudhury, a co-accused in the case, has been given a clean chit.
The conscience of art lovers was shaken when prominent art critics and historians started claiming that 20 of the 23 Tagore paintings exhibited at the GCAC were fakes.
Sculptor Tapas Sarkar, an alumnus of the GCAC, soon moved Calcutta High Court, seeking its intervention in getting the paintings tested.
A panel headed by eminent Tagore expert Ratan Parimoo later termed all the 20 paintings a poor attempt to fake Tagore.
In October 2012, an ex-student of the GCAC, Tamal Krishna Goswami, filed a police complaint against the three at the New Market police station, following which a CID probe was ordered.
A team of officers, comprising Atanu Ghosal, Sougata Ghosh and others, conducted the probe.
The investigating agency slapped sections 420 (cheating), 120B (criminal conspiracy), (punishment for forgery), 469 (forgery for the purpose of harming reputation) and 511 (attempt to commit an offence) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against Bhattacharya and Banerjee.
“She (Bhattacharya), as an eminent intellectual, should have checked the provenances of the paintings. She never checked and intentionally avoided the time-tested methods of checking the paintings. She deceived the government, the people and the entire culture of Kaviguru,” the sleuths wrote in the charge sheet.
Banerjee had earlier claimed in court that none of the Tagore fakes belonged to him. He said that he had given only six paintings to Bhattacharya for restoration, but she never returned those. These six paintings were not among the fakes.
He maintained the same when the investigators grilled him.
The investigators, however, did not buy his argument.
“He, knowing it very well that all are fakes collected by some gray method, supplied the same to Deepali Bhattacharya with an intention to earn money illegally,” the charge sheet stated.