New Delhi: A Delhi court on Friday acquitted Maoist ideologue Kobad Ghandy of terror charges, but convicted him of cheating and forgery, and sentenced him to jail for the period which he has already spent in prison, from September 2009.
However, Ghandy will remain in jail as 14 other cases are pending against him in various courts of the country.
Additional Sessions Judge Reetesh Singh acquitted Ghandy, 68, of charges under Section 20 and 38 (member of banned outfit and furthering its activities) of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), but convicted him of cheating, forgery and impersonation under provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
According to police, Ghandy was involved in setting up a new network of the banned Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) in Delhi. He was arrested here in September 20, 2009, while undergoing treatment for cancer.
Ghandy was living in Delhi to propagate the activities of the CPI-Maoist and he was helped by co-accused Rajinder Kumar, police said.
It also alleged that Ghandy and Kumar carried out forgery on the basis of which fake voter ID card was issued to Ghandy.
The court observed that the prosecution had relied on the recoveries made from the house where Ghandy and Rajinder Kumar were living, printouts of emails accessed at his instance, information and articles about him downloaded from the internet, newspaper reports as well as contents of the First Information Reports to prove that he was associated with the banned terror outfit.
But the court did not find the material reliable to prosecute Ghandy, and said: "None of the evidences relied upon by the prosecution has been found to be admissible in evidence by the court. The testimonies of the prosecution witnesses suffer from infirmities."
"In the facts and circumstances of this case, there are reasonable doubts on the version of the prosecution on charges under Section 20 and 38 of the UAPA," the court said.
"It is true that prosecution has been able to prove that Kobad Ghandy was residing in Delhi in an assumed name and that he had in his possession forged documents."
Observing that these circumstances do give rise to grave suspicions that Ghandy wanted to avoid himself from being discovered, the court said that "suspicion, however grave it might be, cannot be equated with proof of the said fact".
"The material relied upon by the prosecution to prove the membership and association of Kobad Ghandy with the said banned organisations is not reliable and admissible in evidence," the court said.
It said the "gap between using fake identities and membership of the said banned organisations cannot be filled on the basis of suspicion".
Ghandy's defence counsel Bhavook Chauhan told court that his client has faced trial in this case for almost seven years and sought leniency.
The court observed that Ghandy has remained in jail for almost six years and six months and imposed on him a term of imprisonment already undergone by him and fine of Rs 10,000.
The court also convicted his associate, co-accused Rajinder Kumar, of charges dealing with cheating but acquitted him of possessing forged document.
Kumar, arrested on March 19, 2010, was also sentenced with the jail term already undergone by him and fine of Rs 10,000.
Kumar will also remain in jail as he is facing trial in a separate case in a Kanpur court.
Ghandy and Kumar are convicted under Sections 120 B (criminal conspiracy) 468 (Forgery for purpose of cheating) as well as for cheating. Ghandy was convicted under sections for possessing forged document.
The court found that Kumar had forged the signature of one Raman Sharma on electricity bills which were used for inclusion of the fake names of Dilip Patel and Sameer Atmaj Joshi in the electoral roll and issuance of Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC) cards in the name of Patel and Joshi with the photographs of Ghandy and Kumar respectively. The association of Ghandy and Kumar was also proved by eye-witnesses, the court said.
Ghandy was also proved to be residing in Delhi and receiving treatment under the assumed name of Dilip Patel.
The court observed that Kumar carried out forgery on the basis of which fake EPIC was issued to Ghandy.
An EPIC is a document which recognises the right of a citizen to vote in an election, the court noted and said that the "document is also recognized for several ancillary purposes".
The prosecution has proved that Ghandy cheated government authorities into issuing EPIC and PAN card in the fake name of Dilip Patel, the court said.
Timeline of case against Kobad Ghandy
Following is the timeline in the case against Kobad Ghandy, who was acquitted of terror charges by a Delhi court on Friday.
September 20, 2009: In a joint operation of Delhi Police and Hyderabad Police, Kobad Ghandy was arrested from South Delhi.
March 28, 2012: Court drops terror charges against Ghandy due to lack of proper sanction but framed charges dealing with cheating, forgery and impersonation.
April 2012: Police moves application seeking prosecution of Ghandy under the terror charges with fresh sanction.
July 16, 2012: Court frames terror charges against Ghandy.
September 4, 2012: Trial begins in the case.
June 9, 2016: Court reserves verdict in the case.
June 10, 2016: Court acquits Ghandy of terror charges, but convicts him for cheating and forgery. He is sentenced for the period which he has already spent in the jail, from September 2009.