20 years after FIR, court acquits two men charged with using fake passports

 More than 20 years after two men were booked for allegedly possessing forged passports, visa stickers and rubber stamps of the Saudi Arabian embassy, a court here acquitted them giving them the benefit of the doubt.

Metropolitan Magistrate Ajeet Narayan was hearing a case registered against Suleman Khan and Hasibul Rehman. The Farsh Bazar police station registered an FIR against the pair in 2002.

According to the prosecution, six fake passports, three visa stickers, and five rubber stamps purported to be of the Embassy of Saudi Arabia were recovered from Khan on August 13, 2002. Rehman was Khan’s accomplice and induced the victims, it said.

“I am of the considered view that the prosecution has failed to prove its case against the accused beyond a reasonable doubt, whereby both the accused have become entitled to the benefit of the doubt,” the magistrate said in a recent judgment.

“Accordingly, the accused are hereby acquitted for the offences ” he added.

The court said the prosecution was unable to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the visa stickers and the stamps were forged, that they had been recovered from the accused and that the accused intended to use those as genuine.

The prosecution did not “conclusively prove” that the visa stickers and the rubber stamps were forged as the embassy official concerned was not called for providing evidence, it said.

“It is not clear from the report (submitted to the court) on what basis, it (the report) has come to the conclusion that the visa stickers and (the) rubber stamps are forged,” the court said.

There was also doubt about the recovery as the investigating officer did not join any independent witness, it said.

Noting that the witnesses did not identify Rehman, the court said there was not “an iota of evidence” that he used to defraud people by providing them forged visas.

“It is also important to note that there is no complainant in the present case who has filed the complaint against the accused persons that he has been cheated by them,” the court said.

“Hence, it cannot be ruled out that there is a possibility that these passports and other case property might have been planted upon the accused person,” it added.

According to the court, there were “other infirmities and contradictions” in the prosecution’s case, such as the chain of custody of the case property (the seized documents) being broken.

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There were also other “defects in the investigation” such as the site plan not being placed on record and Khan’s arrest memo not showing the time of arrest, the court said.

It said, “Thus, considering the major contradictions, the case of the prosecution fails and it is clear that the offence alleged remains unproven.”

Charges were framed against Khan and Rehman for offences under sections 474 (having possession of document knowing it to be forged and intending to use it as genuine) and 475 (possessing counterfeit marked material) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 12 (punishment for forged passport or travel document) of the Passports Act.

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