Twenty-four years after he was arrested by Customs officers at the city airport for allegedly smuggling 250 gold coins weighing two grams each by concealing them in his rectum, Shyam Suttar was recently acquitted by the Esplanade Court. The court dismissed the case against him before it reached the trial stage, ruling that the prosecution has failed to prove the case.
Now 94, Mr. Suttar was aged 70 when he was held after alighting from an Air India flight from Dubai. As per the prosecution, on July 4, 1994, he was intercepted at the gate of Sahar International Airport on the basis of information received by officers of Marine and Preventive Wing of Customs (Preventive), Mumbai.
It was alleged by the Customs department that Mr. Suttar was carrying a briefcase and a bag. He allegedly admitted to carrying the gold coins, concealed in his rectum in two capsules, as well as to having undeclared goods in his luggage. The Customs officers who apprehended him claimed it was not possible to examine his baggage and recover the gold at the airport, he was taken to their office at Marine Lines.
There, he allegedly ejected one capsule in the presence of panchas, containing 125 foreign-marked gold coins weighing 250 grams. As he was unable to eject the other capsule, he was taken to JJ Hospital where doctors recovered the second capsule, also containing 125 foreign-marked gold coins weighing 250 grams. The gold seized was valued at ₹2.1 lakh.
As part of the investigation, his residence was searched and eight foreign-marked gold coins weighing 16 grams, 210 Singapore dollars and ₹30,000 were recovered. Investigators claimed that Mr. Suttar also admitted to travelling on a forged passport in the Dynanoba Laxman Yenpure, and bringing in gold from Dubai on several earlier trips. Mr. Suttar was subsequently charged under section 135 (evasion of duty or prohibitions) of the Customs Act.
Court not impressed
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate S.V. Sahare said, “It is stated that the officers had prior information about the person carrying gold, why then was Mr. Suttar not stopped or intercepted at the Customs counter, and why was he allowed to cross the Green Channel without declaration of the goods or his personal examination?”
He added, “What made the officers bring Mr Suttar to their office, which is 20 km away, and not examine him at the airport is not explained. It is only said that the place was not proper for further examination, which is not acceptable. Moreover, the panchas were not taken from the airport from where Mr. Suttar was taken into custody, but they were called from the vicinity of the office. However, none of the panchas have been examined by the prosecution to prove the seizure panchanama.”
While acquitting Mr. Sutar, the court held: “The prosecution has failed to prove the doctor’s report or to examine the concerned doctor to prove the same. No panchnama was drawn up at the hospital, but only one panchnama was drawn up at the office. This conduct of the officers show that there is room for the officers to write the panchanama as per convenience and not as per the events occurred.”