More trouble is in store for police constable duo of Dinesh and Tarakeshwari Rathod after Satyarup Siddhanta, a Bengaluru-based software engineer and avid mountaineer, lodged a complaint with the Kolkata police on Friday evening alleging that the couple had morphed pictures of his ascent to the Mount Everest summit.
The duo are in the eye of a storm after fellow mountaineers in Pune and Mumbai accused them of false claim of scaling Mt. Everest on May 23, accusing them of ‘photoshopping’ pictures of their ascent and presenting a distorted version of true events.
Mr. Siddhanta, who hails from Kolkata, lodged a case with the cyber crime police station in Lalbazar after he was ‘startled’ to see a forwarded Facebook post a couple of days back, which questioned the Rathods’ claim to have climbed Mount Everest.
Mr. Siddhanta, speaking to The Hindu from Kolkata, said: “I have immediately decided to take action after discovering that Makalu Adventure Treks, the group that organised Rathods’ expedition had morphed photos of our expedition, superimposing the Rathod couple, and uploading it on their website with their watermark. The company quickly deleted the photos from their website once the scam unravelled.”
Mr. Bivas Chatterjee, Special Public Prosecutor on Cyber and E- Evidence Law for West Bengal and a cyber law expert, said, “It is a serious case of impersonation and one which demands urgent action.” A case has been lodged against the duo under Section 66(d) of Information Technology Act, 2008.
Mr. Chatterjee said it was “utterly apparent” that the pictures posted by the Rathods and uploaded by Makalu Adventure Treks were illegally morphed, which raises strong doubts as to whether the couple did indeed reach the summit.
“It is shocking to see that the Rathods’ have attempted to steal the credit off someone else’s hard work,” Mr. Chaterjee said, referring to Mr. Siddhanta’s arduous but ultimately successful ascent on the Mt. Everest.
Mr. Siddhanta, along with his climbing partner, Malay Mukherjee, had reached the summit on May 21, in an expedition sponsored by the West Bengal government’s Department of Sport and Youth Services. He returned to Kolkata on June 2.
Meanwhile, the Pune police continue to remain tight-lipped over the controversy.
Investigating officer ACP G.S. Madgulkar, Shivajinagar Police, in a terse statement to The Hindu , said: “The probe is on. No comments until it is complete.” He quashed suggestions about ‘suspension’ or ‘punitive action’ against the police couple, remarking that any decision would be taken only once the investigation was complete.
The Pune police said that the statements of both parties were recorded at Shivajinagar police station during three-hour sessions on Thursday.
Mountaineer Surendra Shelke, who filed the complaint against the Rathods’ along with fellow mountaineer Anjali Kulkarni, said, “We told the police that there was no doubt that the Rathods’ had falsified their story. We are willing to issue a public apology in the unlikely event our suspicions are unfounded.” According to reports emanating from Nepal, Makalu Adventure Treks has mounted a defence claiming that the Department of Tourism, which issued certificates to the duo, had not taken the versions of the sherpas who accompanied the Rathods’ on their expedition.
Local papers reported Mohan Lamsal, the managing director of the company, stating that Furba and Fursemba, who were the Rathods’ guides, were not present at the DoT’s debriefing while authorities verified the duo’s claims. On June 5, it seemed that the husband-wife police duo (both aged 30) created a sensation when they claimed at a press conference that they were the first Indian couple and first security personnel couple to reach the top of Mt. Everest, thereby setting a record of sorts.