Court acquits two in Anil Ambani chopper sabotage case

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

MUMBAI - Two people accused of seeking to sabotage industrialist Anil Ambani’s helicopter have been acquitted by a court here due to lack of sufficient evidence, a legal official said.

The duo - Uday M. Warekar, 33, and Palraj Thevar, 38 - was working for Air Works Engineering, the company in-charge of maintaining Anil Ambani Group’s Bell-412 seven-seater helicopter.

This is the first case tried in the country under the stringent Supression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Civil Aviation (SUSCA) Act and under various sections of Indian Penal Code, pertaining specifically to aircraft sabotage.

The duo had also been charged under Indian Penal Code Sec. 440, said their lawyer Vinayak D. Bichu.

Public prosecutor Pradip Gharat argued that the there had been longstanding dispute between the management and union members, including the accused duo, of Air Works.

They wanted to take revenge and put the entire company into trouble, Gharat argued. The defence lawyer Bichu countered that the union rivalry was merely a gimmick used by the management to remove all 54 employees of the company after the incident.

He argued that though the prosecution proved the presence of stones and gravel in the machine, they could not prove that his clients had planted them since there were no eyewitnesses.

Overruling the prosecution, Additional Sessions Judge M. V. Kulkarni gave the benefit of doubt to the two accused and acquitted them. It was Kulkarni’s last order of his career as he retired Tuesday.

Warekar and Thevar were nabbed for allegedly planting stones and pebbles in the fuel tank and gear box of the helicopter which was parked near the Air Works hangar in the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.

The incident came to light April 23 last year when technicians Bharat Borge and Ramshankar Chauhan noticed the fuel cap was not fitted properly during an inspection. Warekar and Thevar were nabbed in May last year and later released on bail by the Bombay High Court.

During the trial, the prosecution examined a dozen witnesses, including Chauhan, technicians and aviation experts.

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