Bangladeshi sculptor can leave Tihar after 8 years

A Delhi court has sentenced Bangladeshi sculptor Rashid Ahmed to prison term less than the time he has already spent behind bars.

New Delhi: After spending eight years in Tihar jail on the charge of possessing fake Indian currency, 75-year-old renowned Bangladeshi sculptor Rashid Ahmed can finally walk free, with a Delhi court sentencing him to prison term less than the time he has already spent behind bars.

Additional Sessions Judge Vimal Kumar Yadav gave seven years imprisonment to Rashid Ahmed and his woman accomplice Nurun Nahar Lovely and imposed a fine of Rs 1.5 lakh each.

Once they pay the fine, Rashid and Nurun, who were arrested here in 2004, will be able to walk free.

"A period of seven/eight years is a long one to change the face of mountains and course of the rivers. They have failed to share the pleasures, pains, and happiness with their families during these years," the court said.

It, however, acquitted their co-accused Mohammed Abaad Ali and Imam Raja, both Indian nationals.

While sentencing the Bangladeshis, the court considered the submission of their counsel and amicus curiae Dhirender Singh and took a lenient view saying, “Rashid Ahmed is stated to be a renowned artist. The newspaper reports also vouch for it, which all goes to strengthen the fact that the convicts were the victims of circumstances and temptation of easy money lured them and they could not ward off the temptation of earning a quick buck with a religious trip to India as bonus."

The prosecution had stated that on December 20, 2004, a team of officials of Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, based on a secret information, apprehended Nurun, Rashid along with two Indian nationals Abaad and Imam from a hotel at Pahar Ganj here.

During a search of their belongings, fake Indian currency notes of a face value Rs 45,98,000 were recovered from false cavities made in a suitcase.

Nurun and Rashid, however, maintained that they had come to India to visit Dargah Ajmer Sharif and that they have been implicated in the case.

After the case was highlighted by media recently, Bangladeshi government had expressed hope that the courts will take a sympathetic view and release the sculptor.

On the complaint by the DRI, a case was also registered against all four by the CBI under section 489 C (possessing counterfeit currency), 489 B (Using as genuine, counterfeit currency-notes) and 120 B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.

The prosecution had alleged that Nurun and Rashid had smuggled in fake Indian currency here while Abaad and Imam were entrusted with responsibility to use the fake notes in the market here as part of a larger conspiracy of smuggling fake currency at the instance of some Pakistani nationals.

The court, however, held that the agency had failed to prove any such conspiracy involving Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals. As for Abaad and Imam, the court held that the prosecution could not prove that they had gone to the hotel to collect the contraband.

"The element of conspiracy is missing as accused Abaad Ali and Imam Raja are not shown cogently being part of the same as no evidence has been brought on record conclusively and comprehensively beyond doubt."

The court observed one of the premier investigating agencies involved even attempted to unearth the so-called conspiracy involving Pakistani and/or Bangla nationals.

"Recovery of the currency notes being not attributable to Abaad and Raja takes them out from the domain of the offences alleged against them. So is the position qua accused Nurun and Rashid so far as criminal conspiracy to smuggle in fake Indian currency notes is concerned.”

"However, the possession of currency notes is attributable to them," the court said while convicting Nurun and Rashid for smuggling fake currency in violation of the provisions of the Customs Act.