A SESSIONS court in Mumbai Thursday upheld a lower court’s order acquitting Abdul Latif Adam Momin along with 18 others, including passport office employees, in a case linked to the 1999 Kandahar hijacking. The accused were booked on charges of forging documents to help obtain fake passports for the hijackers of the Indian Airlines flight IC-814 in December 1999.
Momin, a Mumbai resident, is currently serving life imprisonment in a jail in Punjab for his role in the hijacking, including obtaining passports for the hijackers. The Mumbai Police had claimed that it was through Momin that the other accused had helped obtain a passport in the name of four wanted accused hijackers to enable their travel on the plane and its subsequent hijacking.
All the accused in the passport case were acquitted by the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s court in 2012 after which the state government had filed an appeal challenging the acquittal before the sessions court.
In the appeal, police had claimed that Momin had given a passport agent, also named as an accused, Rs 2,500 as advance to prepare a passport without valid documents. It claimed that bribes ranging from Rs 300 to Rs 2,500 were paid to various passport office clerks to process the application without verification.
The accused were booked on charges including forgery, cheating, and common intent of the Indian Penal Code and relevant sections of the Indian Passport Act.
The court, police stated in the appeal, had not considered various recoveries made from the accused and other evidence which showed that the documents submitted for the passport were forged. The forged documents included school leaving certificate, and driving licences.
While the detailed order of the sessions court upholding the acquittals is yet to be made available, the lower court had in 2012 said police had failed to prove that there was a nexus between the accused, which included passport office clerks, motor-training school employees, postmen, a passport agent and his employees, through which they planned to help the hijackers obtain the passports. It had said that from the testimonies of the 28 witnesses, evidence pointing towards the involvement of these accused could not be gathered.
Lawyer Abdul Wahab Khan, representing Momin, had submitted that original documents were not made part of the evidence and no witnesses had named Momin or identified him as the person who facilitated the passport applications. Khan also said the same set of evidence was submitted before the main case of hijacking and one of the accused here was an important witness in that case.
In 2014, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had upheld the life-term awarded to Momin by a special court in 2008 while acquitting two other accused. Currently, the order is under challenge before the Supreme Court.
On December 24, 1999, the Indian Airlines plane was hijacked by five wanted accused after it took off from Kathmandu, Nepal, for New Delhi.
The plane, which had 189 passengers on board including the crew, was subsequently landed in Kandahar and negotiations were made with the Indian government leading to the release of three arrested militants, including Masood Azhar. The hijackers had killed a 25-year-old man. While there were 23 accused in the passport case, some were discharged, while others passed away during the trial.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines