After 27 yrs, man freed as no trace of witnesses

Mumbai: A magistrate court recently acquitted a man accused in a gold smuggling case of 1993 in which 140 kg of the metal was recovered, as none of the eight witnesses could not be traced.

The court observed that the last witness examined in the case was in 2010 and thereafter till 2017, when the charges were finally framed in the case, the prosecution did not examine any witness. By 2017, when the time the charges were framed, only one of the seven accused in the case was available to face trial. While three of his co-accused had absconded over the years, three others had died.

Acquitting 59-year-old Karim Hyder from Daman, additional chief metropolitan magistrate ST Dande noted that prosecution had tried to secure the presence of witnesses, but even the pension cell did not have contact details of officers who acted as witnesses in the case. “As witnesses did not turn to the court to face the cross-examination, accused did not get the opportunity to put his defence to the witness,” the judgment said.

Hyder’s advocate also argued that the inordinate delay of 27 years in prosecuting the accused has caused great hardship, harassment and mental agony to him and was the worst kind of punishment.

The judgment said that the Evidence Act is clear that if witness is not produced, his evidence would not be admissible and that evidence of the prosecution witnesses could not be taken into consideration to prove the charges against Hyder.

On August 14, 1991 on specific intelligence, customs officials had intercepted an Ambassador and a Fiat. In these cars in which the accused were travelling, they had found two sacks containing six jackets each. In each of these jackets were 100 gold bars – a total of 1200 gold bars weighing 140 kg were seized. These allegedly come from Dubai through Daman. There were foreign markings on the bars and the accused could not show any documents which showed that they had permission to import the gold and they were booked under the Customs Act for evading duty.

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