This was one sting that did not smell right on Day One. A week after, it stinks. The police on Thursday arrested a woman, who played a critical role in the sting on a government schoolteacher, charging her with cheating.
The accused, Rashmi Singh, had posed as a schoolgirl alleging that teacher Uma Khurana pushed her and other girls into prostitution. All this was said, recorded on film and telecast by Live India, a television news channel.
That was on August 30. Public outrage followed. The schoolteacher was attacked by a mob, sacked by the education department and arrested by the police. The city was shocked. And the news channel gloated.
The police now say a Live India reporter staged the sting using Rashmi as the accuser. She is neither a schoolgirl nor a sex-worker. The police said she is an aspiring journalist who lives in Noida.
Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said Rashmi has been charged with cheating, impersonation, criminal conspiracy and giving false evidence. “Action against the channel is now imminent,” said a senior officer.
Live India CEO and editor Sudhir Chaudhary told HT on Thursday that he will give his comments after consulting his lawyer. Later, he stopped taking calls on his mobile phone.<b1>
Khurana, meantime, is going to spend more time in judicial custody unsure of what her fate is going to be. Or how soon can she expect to be released from judicial custody.
What about the education department? Will it now withdraw the dismissal orders served on Khurana hastily the day after her arrest? For them Khurana was guilty even before she went on trial.
Education minister Arvinder Singh Lovely told HT on Thursday: “I can only comment once I receive the official report from the crime branch.” He had earlier said, “The government’s enquiry committee watched the CD and found that our students were not involved in the racket. But the principal of the school’s Bulbuli Khana branch identified the woman shown in the sting. She was Khurana and that is why we sacked her.”
It has been an easy incident for the city to handle. On day one, Delhiites watched the story roll on their television sets with a growing sense of shock and anger: a schoolteacher pushing her girls into prostitution. People, including many parents, responded with understandable outrage. The school was attacked and Khurana was manhandled. The news channel went to town with what it clearly thought was its crowning glory.
From day two the case started looking at a little weak. HT, in fact, had reported that the girl in the sting was neither a schoolgirl nor a prostitute. Soon word came from the police that the reporter was being questioned.
The channel took on critics. Chaudhary said, “In almost all such operations, reporters assume fake identities to carry out the sting effectively.”
Police was not convinced and began talking to the journalists behind the sting. Another person, Virendra Arora, was arrested.
Then the case just collapsed. Khurana apparently owed Arora some money, which became the cause of a dispute. This lay at the heart of the sting.