An Iranian national, who was caught at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport on August 28 last year for allegedly trying to fly to Japan on a forged visa, is likely to be deported after a local court acquitted him.
Heider Satvatighaleh (48) had arrived in Mumbai on a tourist visa a few days before his arrest. His next stop was Japan. Satvatighaleh was, however, arrested at the airport while trying to fly out. According to the prosecution, when Satvatighaleh produced his passport at immigration, the officer at the counter suspected the authenticity of the Japanese visa sticker. The paper it was printed on was glossy, there was a discrepancy in font, the seal of the Japanese government was faded and its features found dim when examined in an ultraviolet scanner.
Satvatighaleh allegedly confessed to immigration officers that he paid $2,000 to a travel agent in Tehran for the Japanese visa and that he was aware it was fake. His admission was recorded in English by immigration officers with the help of a Farsi translator. Satvatighaleh was then handed over to Sahar police.
During trial at the Andheri magistrate court, Satvatighaleh denied the claims recorded in his extrajudicial confession when his statement was recorded by the magistrate under Section 311 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
The police submitted a letter from the Japanese Consulate in Mumbai, which stated that the visa sticker was forged. Magistrate S N Salve ruled, however, that the report itself was not sufficient to establish the guilt of the accused, as the author of the report had not been examined.
Sub-Inspector Kavita Naik told the court witness summons had been sent to the consulate but had been politely refused. According to the judgment, the consulate replied to the police stating, “As per international law our office or its representative shall not attend or be present in the court as witness.”
Magistrate Salve observed, “As the accused through his cross-examination and by way of answers to questions put to him under Section 313 of CrPC has disputed the genuineness of the report, the prosecution was duty-bound to examine the author of the report to prove the signature and contents…”
Advocate Prabhakar Tripathi, who represented the Iranian national, also argued during trial that the police had neither been able to establish the authenticity of the report nor conclusively prove charges of forgery against Satvatighaleh, who had a valid Indian tourist visa at the time of arrival.
Even as Satvatighaleh deposed in court that he did not understand the contents of his extrajudicial confession because he was not conversant in English, the prosecution did not examine either the immigration officer who recorded the statement or the Farsi translator. “Even if such extrajudicial confessions are held to be proved, they need the support of other evidence. There is absolutely no supporting evidence in the present case,” the magistrate observed. While acquitting Satvatighaleh, the court also ordered his immediate deportation as the validity of his tourist visa had expired. An officer at the Sahar police station said the procedure to send him back to Iran would be completed by the end of the week.