By Pervez Bari, TwoCircles.net
Bhopal : Contrary to expectations a Bhopal court on Monday acquitted the former Bollywood actress Monica Bedi, the underworld don Abu Salem’s girl-friend and companion, and one another accused in a fake passport case.
In the much publicized case the Chief Judicial Magistrate, (CJM), Ajay Shrivastava acquitted Monica Bedi and Abdul Kabeer of charges under the various sections of Indian Penal Code and the Indian Passport Act on the basis of lack of evidence. The CJM discharged the accused on the ground that the prosecution had failed to prove the charges with concrete evidence.
CJM Shrivastava, taking strong exception of the prosecution’s inability to prove convincingly the charges against Ms Monica Bedi and Abdul Kabeer, in his judgment has directed that stern action be initiated by the government against the prosecution and other agencies for failure to bring out facts to nail down the accused.
”It is saddening that notary Khaleelullah, Head Constable Irfan Ahmad, Bhopal Municipal Corporation’s then Assistant Superintendent Umashankar, Regional Passport Office official Amar Lakra, Clerk Indu S Nair, retired Deputy Superintendent of Police J P Pali, municipal clerk Aziz Fatima and DSP S K Shukla displayed utter neglect,” the judgment said.
The judgment came as a shocking pleasant surprise for Monica Bedi and her counsel P C Bedi as both had resigned to fate saying a jail term of three to five years would handed over to the former.
After the judgment a tense Ms Monica Bedi’s face lit up with a gentle smile giving ample proof that she was greatly relieved with the verdict.
Prison sources had said that Monica was in profound tension for the past couple of days and was not interacting much. She appeared relatively carefree in the initial days after being brought here from a Hyderabad jail about nine months back. During the trial period she once fainted in court.
A beaming Monica’s counsel P C Bedi talking to newsmen in the court premises soon after the judgment was delivered said: “The judgment has come as a pleasant shock to Monica and also to me”.
“We have been always maintaining the stand that charges against her were not justified,” the defense lawyer, who had refrained from producing a single witness but had been countering charges by the prosecution, said.
It may be mentioned here that Monica, along with Abu Salem, his wife Sameera Jumani, Siraj and his brother Kabeer were booked in 2001 for procuring passports on basis of fake documents. Monica was accused of procuring the passport in the name of Fauzia Usmani.
It may be recalled here that Ms Monica Bedi and Abu Salem were extradited to India from Portugal to face the charges.
After being extradited, Monica was incarcerated at Hyderabad where she was awarded a five-year sentence in September 2006 by a CBI Special Court in a case again relating to the fake passports.
The Andhra Pradesh High Court later reduced it to three years and bail was granted. Monica was brought to Bhopal on October 12, 2006 in the wake of a warrant issued on November 17, 2005. A petition submitted by the accused in the Supreme Court led to issuance of notices against the Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh Governments.
Meanwhile, having lack of faith in the Bhopal court where Monica Bedi was undergoing trial, a few days back she had moved the Supreme Court of India seeking transfer of the passport forgery case trial pending at Bhopal to either Delhi or Mumbai.
A Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice R V Raveendran issued notice to the Madhya Pradesh Government seeking its response to her petition accusing the trial court of being prejudiced towards her.
Monica had alleged that the Chief Judicial Magistrate at Bhopal has framed charges against her without hearing her defence on the issue.
Surprisingly, the CJM has drawn a false order sheet showing as if arguments on her behalf have been taken into account, she alleged. As such the Bhopal court’s verdict has come as a shocking pleasant surprise to her.
Monica, who was brought up in Canada, ventured from the silver screen into the shadowy world of crime and has been lodged at the Central Jail here.
After waking up in the morning in the jail Monica regularly performs Yoga and other exercises. She constantly urges that boiled green vegetables be provided to her. About ten inmates share her barrack and she converses with them besides teaching them dance and acting! She made the offer herself.
Monica never refers to either Salem or the underworld. ”I am innocent,” she claims when probed. The accused does not have any special interest in worship but reads English spiritual books. She comes dressed in a variety of garments during hearings and an allegation was made that special facilities were being extended to her.
Dismissing that accusation, Prison Superintendent PD Somkuwar said, ”as an undertrial she is free to wear what she likes but is allowed to keep only four to five pairs. The accused was carrying several garments most of which have been sent to her lawyer.”
Monica uses a few creams and lotions. The Bhopal Central Jail boasts a beauty parlour that is run by inmates. Monica goes to the parlour but prefers to use her own make-up kit. ([email protected])