Being in touch with an accused over the telephone cannot be the basis to convict an individual, the Bombay high court observed, while acquitting a 49-year-old New Panvel resident, charged with conspiring with two others who were carrying fake Indian currency notes (FICN) worth Rs 19.79 lakh.
Mohammed Rashid Kunju was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation’s economic offences unit, on the basis of his call data record (CDR) that showed he was in contact with one of the two people carrying the fake currency.
According to the prosecution, on February 2, 2009, an officer of the directorate of revenue intelligence received information about two people – Khaleel Mohammed and Mohammed Shabbir – carrying FICN on the Gorakhpur-Lokmanya Tilak Terminus Express.
A trap was laid and the two were caught. Khaleel was found holding FICN worth Rs19,79,500. Interrogation showed the FICN was being smuggled to India on Kunju's insistence. The businessman was then arrested from a hospital in Mumbai. The case was handed over to the economic offences unit of the CBI.
The CBI unit, to support their case against Kunju, produced CDR showing he was in contact with Khaleel, and on that basis, the trial court convicted him in 2013 on the charge of conspiracy. Kunju was sentenced to seven years in prison. Kunju then appealed in the high court.
Justice Abhay Thipsay found the evidence was not enough to sustain his conviction. The judge said merely because of contact over the telephone, the case against Kunju cannot be proved.
“The telephonic contact would only establish the accused No.1 and the appellant knew each other, but it would be difficult to stretch the matter further.”
Justice Thipsay reversed the conviction and set Kunju free, observing this was a case where there was reasonable doubt about the truth of the prosecution’s version.