The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Five-year jail jolt to Monica

Hyderabad/Mumbai, Sept. 29: Yesterday, Monica Bedi was smiling in anticipation of a light sentence in the passport forgery case against her. Today she was numbed by the announcement of her jail term: five years.

The CBI designated court here convicted the actress and girlfriend of gangster Abu Salem under Sections 419 and 420 (cheating and abetment) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.

With the CBI not pressing charges under the passport act, Monica’s lawyer Pradeep Kumar had yesterday hoped for a jail term of six months or so. Monica has already spent 10 months in jail in Hyderabad where she was brought on November 11 last year, a month after she was extradited with Salem from Portugal.

Kumar said it was his client’s association with the gangster that had proved her undoing. “We are disappointed as we expected a lenient sentence. All she did was give him (Salem) company; she was never part of his criminal or terrorist activities,” he said. The defence will approach a higher court for reduction of the sentence.

In Mumbai, Salem looked stunned and upset when the prosecution at the Tada (anti-terror) court hearing the 1993 Bombay blasts case informed the judge of the sentence. But he kept silent. He continued to brood and refused to speak even informally when reporters tried to get his reaction.

Monica, who wore an orange-and-green salwar-kameez, looked shaken after the sentencing — which includes a Rs 5,000 fine — and was given a chair to sit in the box.

The woman who had the local media going to town over her dress sense every time she appeared in court, will now be wearing only the all-white prison uniform.

Two other fellow accused — retired assistant sub-inspector of police Abdul Sattar and postman Gokari Saheb — got five years and a third, revenue inspector Mohammed Yunus, three years.

The court acquitted two others — Srinivas, a clerk with the police’s special branch, and Noor Mohammad, a travel agent — for lack of evidence.

Monica and Salem had obtained passports in August 2001 from Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh under fictitious names and addresses.

Sattar, Saheb and Yunus were convicted for helping the two obtain the passports.

Monica has a similar case pending against her in Bhopal.

In Mumbai, Salem was brought to the court today for the hearing of a Delhi police application seeking his custody in connection with an extortion.

But judge Pramod Kode, saying he was busy with the serial blasts verdict, put off hearing till October 19.

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