New Delhi: A Delhi court on Thursday framed charges against sitting Uttar Pradesh MLA Mukhtar Ansari and his three associates for allegedly running an organised crime syndicate for undue pecuniary benefits.

An independent legislator form Mau and an accused in the 2005 murder of BJP MLA Krishnanand Rai, 53-year-old Ansari was charged under section 3(4) of Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) for being a member of an organised crime syndicate.

The section carries a punishment of minimum five-year imprisonment which may also extend to life and a minimum fine of Rs 5 lakh. The court also framed charges against Ansari's alleged accomplices Prem Prakash alias Munna Bajrangi, Iftekhar Ahmed and Meraz Ahmed, who had been earlier this year acquitted in an extortion case.

While framing charges against Ansari, Additional Sessions Judge Savita Rao said, "Before or at the time of registration of this case, you (Ansari) were found to be the member of an organised crime syndicate of Prem Prakash alias Munna Bajrangi who was found committing organised crime." Ansari pleaded not guilty to the charge and claimed trial.

Bajrangi, who lost the recent UP Assembly elections from his hometown Jaunpur, has also been charged for running an organised crime with the court noting that the offences did not result in any deaths.

The ASJ, while framing charges against Munna Bajrangi, held that, "You (Bajrangi) being a member of organised crime syndicate have indulged in continuing unlawful activities singly or jointly as members of the organised crime syndicate on or behalf of such syndicate by using violence, threat of violence, intimidation or coercion or other unlawful means with the objective of gaining pecuniary benefits or other undue economic advantages."

Iftikhar and Meraz Ahmed were charged for conspiring or attempting to commit or advocating, abetting and knowingly facilitating the commission of organised crimes by Bajrangi. Bajrangi, Iftekhar and Meraz pleaded not guilty and claimed trial. The trial would begin from May 22.

Bajrangi was arrested by the Special Cell of Delhi Police in October 2009 for threatening a South Delhi businessman Ashok Tebriwal to extort money. His accomplice Iftekhar and Meraz were arrested in November that year and MCOCA was invoked against them after the police said they were running an organised crime syndicate.

Bajrangi, Iftekhar and Meraz were, however, acquitted by a magisterial court earlier this year in the extortion case under the Indian Penal Code while the case under MCOCA was on before the ASJ.

The counsel for the accused, Deepak Sharma said the police had arrested Bajrangi and others from Mumbai, claiming that they had intercepted a telephonic conversation that revealed a conspiracy to extort money from Tebriwal. The police had claimed that callers were the associates of Bajrangi and had called up Tebriwal to demand Rs 1 crore.

Following this, the police had also lodged an FIR against Ansari, who is said to be close to Bajrangi, after it found that he was also a part of the organised crime syndicate and he was arrested in May 2010.

Public Prosecutor Rajiv Mohan had earlier told the court that all the four have been involved in various cases of extortion, threatening in Delhi, UP and Maharashtra. They also face prosecution for allegedly murdering BJP MLA Krishnanand Rai in 2005.

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