Mumbai : After nearly five years behind bars on charges of possessing counterfeit currency notes, a sessions court acquitted a 35-year-old man on Friday, citing the prosecution's failure to establish that the fake notes were indeed in his possession and were recovered from him.
Nimesh Choutaliya had been arrested on November 25, 2019, for allegedly printing and using counterfeit Rs 500 denomination currency notes to purchase a phone through an online portal. He was apprehended when the seller, Shad Mohammad Shaikh, noticed that the notes Choutaliya had given him were all fake, lacking a security thread, and having different colors and credentials. Shaikh contacted his uncle, who then informed the Kurla police, leading to the registration of a case against Choutaliya.
The prosecution claimed that Shaikh had posted an advertisement to sell his phone for Rs 22,000. Choutaliya responded, and after initial negotiations, they agreed on a price of Rs 17,000. The two planned to meet in Bandra on November 25, 2019, to complete the transaction. Upon discovering the counterfeit notes, Shaikh reclaimed his phone and returned the counterfeit money.
According to the prosecution, when Shaikh contacted his uncle, the uncle informed the Kurla police, and Choutaliya was taken into custody by the police at the scene. It was alleged that these notes were recovered from Choutaliya during a personal search, in the presence of independent punch witnesses.
However, during the trial, Shaikh testified during cross-examination by defense lawyer Wahab Khan that he had handed over 34 notes of Rs. 500 denomination to the police at the police station. He also stated that he had given part of a torn Rs. 500 denomination note to the police while at the police station, and the police officer had counted these notes.
The court found that this part of Shaikh's testimony contradicted the prosecution's case. The special judge, BD Shelke, observed that if Shaikh had indeed taken back his mobile phone after realizing that the notes given by the accused were counterfeit and had returned these alleged counterfeit notes of Rs. 500 denomination to the accused at the Asha Petrol Pump, it raised doubts about how these notes came into his possession and were handed over to the police.
Additionally, the court noted that the investigating officer failed to obtain call data records for both the accused and the complainant and present them in court to substantiate any transaction between them. This omission, the court determined, was detrimental to the case. Moreover, the prosecution did not call Shaikh's uncle as a witness, even though he had alerted the police, leading to Choutaliya's arrest.
Furthermore, the court observed that the investigating officer first came into possession of the notes at 8.40 pm when the accused was brought to the police station. He then showed the notes to his superior officer, gave them to a constable for photocopying, and later returned all the notes to the accused, who was in handcuffs at the time, and punch witnesses were absent.
The court concluded that the evidence was insufficient to establish that the prosecution had proven that the alleged 34 counterfeit currency notes were genuinely in the accused's possession and were seized from him.