Gangster Chhota Rajan was on Tuesday given a seven-year jail term by a special court in New Delhi for cheating the government by obtaining a forged Indian passport, even as he claimed he had been helping the State to fight terrorism since he broke away from mobster Dawood Ibrahim.
Besides Rajan, the court also awarded seven-year jail term to other three convicts, who are retired public servants -- Jayashree Dattatray Rahate, Deepak Natvarlal Shah and Lalitha Lakshmanan.
Special Judge Virender Kumar Goyal announced the verdict after hearing arguments on the quantum of sentence, during which Rajan claimed he was given the passport by someone on behalf of the State as he was fighting terrorism and helping the State.
The Central Bureau of Investigation opposed his plea for leniency, stating that Rajan should be given the maximum sentence to set a deterrent for others.
"I (Rajan) was moved by the Mumbai blasts and since then I started working to help the intelligence agencies of this country after my split from Dawood in 1993," the counsel representing the gangster claimed and added that Rajan had continuous threat to his life.
"Since 1993, in order to keep his identity secret, he lived in several countries. The motive was to protect the country from terrorism and the current offence was committed by him only to save his life," the counsel said, adding that Rajan's original passport was snatched by Dawood's men.
"A lenient view should be taken," he said.
The counsel for other convicts also sought leniency from the court citing old age and various ailments.
The punishment was awarded to all the convicts for the offences of cheating, using as genuine a forged document, forgery for the purpose of cheating, forgery of valuable security or will, cheating by impersonation and criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code and violating relevant provisions of the Passport Act.
All the four were convicted of the same offences for which the punishment ranges from seven years to life term.
While Rajan is lodged in Tihar Jail, the other three persons, who were out on bail, were taken into custody on Monday after the verdict was announced.
Rajan is involved in over 85 cases, ranging from murder to extortion, smuggling and drug trafficking.
The court had held all the four guilty in the case.
Rajan alias Rajendra Sadashiv Nikalje appeared before the court through video-conference due to security reasons.
While convicting the convicts, the court had noted in its order that Rajan had twice got passports issued in the name of Mohan Kumar on false and fabricated documents -- first from Regional Passport Office, Bangalore and then from Consulate General of India, Sydney, Australia.
It said that signatures appearing in the application form for re-issue of passport given at RPO, Bangalore and on the passport issued by Consulate General of India, Sydney, Australia, on the basis of the same particulars, were the same and tallied with the specimen signatures of Rajan.
It said that Rajan "impersonated" himself as Mohan Kumar with the help of "false particulars, address etc., supported with the false and fabricated documents and cheated the Government of India by obtaining an Indian passport in his fake name of Mohan Kumar".
"All accused had entered into a criminal conspiracy to do an illegal act by illegal means. Accused Rajan intentionally and knowingly furnished false information with false address and other particulars whereas in furtherance of the criminal conspiracy," it had said.
The court found that Rajan's application for passport was accepted by Lakshmanan and processed by Rahate, where his date of birth was corrected as the old passport copy of was also forged and fabricated.
It noted that the passport was signed and issued by Shah, who without lawful authority, altered the date of birth in the application for re-issue of passport to allow the application in the false name, address and other particulars.
Lakshmanan had earlier approached the high court to transfer to Bangalore her trial, but the petition was rejected on January 9 on the ground that a district court in New Delhi could also hear the matter.
During pendency of the plea, the high court had ordered a stay on pronouncement of verdict in the case by trial court. However, the high court later rejected the plea.
Deported after being on the run for 27 years, Rajan, once a close aide of fugitive terrorist Dawood Ibrahim, was brought to India to face trial in over 70 cases of murder, extortion and drug smuggling in Delhi and Mumbai. He was deported to India after his arrest in Bali in October 2015.