Observing that mere possession of counterfeit notes cannot be termed as an offence and prosecution is required to prove that the person had knowledge that the notes were fake, the Bombay High Court has set aside the conviction and five year sentence awarded to a man.
Justice Anuja Prabhudessai was hearing an appeal filed by one Munshi Mohammed Shaikh challenging a sessions court order of October 2013, convicting him under sections 489 (b) and 489 (c) of IPC for possession of counterfeit notes and sentencing him to five years in jail.
According to the prosecution, on December 19, 2011, Shaikh went to suburban Kurla branch of Punjab National Bank to deposit Rs. 9,500 cash. He handed 17 Rs. 500 notes and one Rs. 1,000 note to the cashier.
The cashier upon examination suspected that some of the notes were counterfeit and asked the accused to wait at the counter and went to the bank manager, who confirmed that the notes were counterfeit.
However, when they came out the accused was not there following which they lodged a complaint. By the time the police arrived, the accused came back and was arrested.
The High Court, after perusing the facts and evidence of the case, was of the opinion that the prosecution had not adduced any evidence to prove that the accused had knowledge or that he had reason to believe that the notes were counterfeit.
“It is crystal clear that in order to prove the ingredients of the offences under section 489 (b) and 489 (c), the prosecution is not only required to prove mere use or possession of counterfeit notes as genuine but the prosecution is also required to prove that the accused had knowledge or that he had reason to believe that the said notes were forged or counterfeit,” the court said recently.
“The evidence adduced by the prosecution does not indicate that the colour and texture of the notes were different or that the difference was so apparent that a mere look at the notes would convince a lay man that it was counterfeit. In the absence of any such evidence, it cannot be presumed that the accused had knowledge that the notes were fake,” Justice Prabhudessai said.
The court also took note of the fact that the accused came back to the bank and did not flee when the cashier told him about his suspicion.
The court set aside Shaikh’s conviction and ordered him to be release forthwith.