Calcutta, Sept. 3: The high court today acquitted four youths who had been in jail for the past five years for allegedly leaking defence documents to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan.
Ahmed Ali (a Bangladeshi), Mahammed Yaqoob (from Afghanistan), Aloke alias Bapi Biswas and Mrinal Poddar were arrested from Mumbai, Delhi and Calcutta between September 1999 and August 2000. A trial court had sentenced three of them to life terms.
Police picked up Ali from his Dum Dum house in September 1999 and found incriminating documents, including papers relating to the missile test-firing range at Chandipur in Orissa. He went to Chandipur as a mason and allegedly utilised the access to procure documents.
Following Ali’s interrogation, eight others were arrested. The trial court acquitted five of them.
A division bench of Justices N.A. Chowdhury and A.K. Bhattacharya said given that the four were charged with sedition, the police should have procured a sanction from the Government of India to prosecute them. Instead, all that they got was a sanction to investigate the case.
The court said the process of obtaining the necessary sanction was “defective” and the accused could not be prosecuted. “There was no valid sanction from the government (of India), which is required to prosecute the accused under Section 124A of the IPC, which relates to sedition.”
The court also observed that none of the accused had confessed to their crime and there was not enough evidence to convict them.
State chief secretary Asok Gupta said tonight he was not aware of the high court verdict. “I must get a copy of the order,” he said.
The city sessions court had ordered life terms for Ali, Biswas and Yaqoob. Poddar was sentenced to five years’ rigorous imprisonment.
Yaqoob and Biswas had challenged the trial court order, but today’s verdict would be applicable to all four.
The court said: “Even the accused who do not prefer any appeal are acquitted as the sanction for prosecution by the government was defective.”