City court ends 32-year-long 'ordeal' of two businessmen

"At the outset, it may be mentioned that present case was not just a trial but an ordeal for the accused persons. They have been facing this case since 1979... It will be against the well-settled legal principles if any conclusion of guilt is drawn in the present facts and circumstances," said ACMM Sanjay Bansal, while acquitting Bhupinder Singh Anand and Sardar Narender Singh Chadha.

"Prosecution could produce only 9 out of 65 witnesses for cross-examination after framing of charges. To add to it, the documents of case are not traceable at the stage of final arguments... It will be unfair to take any view against the accused. This ordeal for them must end," he added.

The case against Anand and Chadha which was lodged on the basis of a 1977 complaint by the Deputy Controller of Imports and Exports pertains to procurement of an export licence by their private firms.

The complaint accused two firms - Krampe Hydraulic (India) and Kromex International, three people owning and controlling the firm, besides two other businessman of procuring the licence to export diesel engine by cheating, forgery and violation of international trade laws.

The accused included Krampe Hydraulic (India) partner B N Mehta and its Mumbai-based manager M M Shah, Kromex International manager Anand, besides businessmen Sardar Kuldeep Singh and Sardar Narender Singh Chadha.

It was alleged that they had forged documents to get export licence for diesel engine and its components, despite being ineligible for it as they were manufacturing hydraulic pumps and its parts.

The case was earlier probed by CBI and later taken over by the Director General Foreign Trade (DGFT). The change of prosecution agency saw many of the vital case documents remain untraceable. The documents were earlier with CBI and the DGFT counsel told the court that the probe agency never gave it the document.

CBI, on the other hand, contended that it had given all the documents to DGFT. The court had begun the formal trial in the case 22 years after it was lodged, framing charges in the case in 2001 against the three accused as two of them had already died by then.

The court had framed charges against the three persons, including Anand and Chadha, for offences of criminal conspiracy, forgery, cheating and violation of international trade law, the Import and Export (Control) Act in 2001.

During the trial, only 9 out of 65 witnesses could be produced before the court and many of them could not recall the incident that occurred in 1974-76. One of the witnesses, a cargo worker, who had earlier given his statement to the CBI, forgot the facts during the cross-examination.

"In cross-examination, he stated that he could not say at what time the entries were made and he did not remember the facts because considerable time had elapsed," ACMM noted in his judgments.

The court made several similar observations regarding various other witnesses and acquitted the two accused firms.

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