Eleven years after three men were charged with robbing a bank in Borivli purportedly to finance the IC 814 plane hijack on December 24, 1999, the sessions court set them free.
On Wednesday, additional sessions judge MJ Mirza acquitted Abdul Latif Momin, Gopal Bhimbahadur Maan and Mushtaq Ahmed Azmi primarily due to discrepancy in the prosecution evidence produced before the court.
On October 6, 1999, four unidentified armed men barged into the Borivli branch of the Maharashtra State Co-operative Bank and stole Rs 7,35,715.
After investigations, the police arrested Momin, Maan, Azmi and Pakistani nationals Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Rafique from their Jogeshwari residences on December 30, 1999. The police had purportedly seized two AK 56 rifles, other illegal arms and Rs 2 lakh cash from the residence one of the accused.
On March 27, 2000, police submit charge sheet in court accusing the five men of dacoity and for possession of illegal arms and explosives under the Arms Act and Explosives Substances Act respectively.
On October 11, 2007, the two Pakistani nationals pleaded guilty for the bank robbery before a fast-track court at Sewri and were sentenced to eight years in jail.
Momin and Maan were convicted by a Patiala court in connection with the IC 814 plane hijacking that took place on December 24, 1999. They were awarded life sentences.
But there were serious lapses and contradictions in the prosecution's case, said advocate Wahab Khan who defended one of the accused.
“The witnesses failed to identify any of the accused who allegedly carried the robbery and the policemen contradicted each other on the seizure of weapons,” Khan said.
“It was the prosecution’s case that the money from the bank robbery was used to fund the IC 814 plane hijack but no material was brought on record even to suggest that,” said another defence counsel Subhash Kanse.
Public prosecutor Jagannath Kenjalkar, however, maintained that the robbery had nothing to do with the plane hijack and it was a “simple case of bank robbery”.