Abdul Karim Telgi, prime accused in the multi-crore fake stamp paper scam, was on Thursday sentenced to 13 years rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 202 crore after being convicted under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act and Indian Penal Code 120 (criminal conspiracy) in one of the 39 cases registered against him.
The case, registered by the Bund Garden police in Pune on June 7, 2003, had led to the recovery of fake stamp papers worth Rs 2,200 crore from Bhiwandi and Rs 800 crore from Cuffe Parade. It was the biggest of the cases lodged against Telgi across India.
Judge Chitra Bhedi delivered the verdict after a surprise guilty plea by Telgi, on his wife Shahida’s advice. Telgi thanked the court for giving him the opportunity to plead guilty, saying he had “full faith in the judiciary”. He also sought leniency, saying “I am the only breadwinner in my family”. Judge Bhedi responded by saying: “It’s only because you have repented that you have got lenient punishment. If you had opted for a trial, you might have been more severely punished.”
A tearful Telgi, hands folded, said: “Madam, I am suffering from various ailments which have no cure (a reference to his HIV-positive status). It is only after consulting my wife that I have decided to face the world.”
An unmoved CBI lawyer Raja Thakare argued for the maximum punishment possible. “Since the accused has caused heavy damage to the state exchequer and ruined the lives of several people by involving them in the scam, he should be shown no leniency,” he said. He added that the sheer volume of fake stamps recovered is indicative of the magnitude of the crime.
The court, meanwhile, sentenced 43 other accused in the case to a minimum of five years. The accused, mostly those recruited by Telgi to sell fake stamp papers, had pleaded guilty in the last two days.
On Wednesday, former Mumbai Police Commissioner R.S. Sharma, suspended Deputy Commissioner of Police Pradeep Sawant, suspended Police Inspector Vaishistha Andhale and stamp vendor Madhav Devadika were discharged from the case.