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Source indiatimes.com

A Messerschmitt Bf 109 getting ready for action
Ex-president of HKE Society, principal of PDA College will have to face trial, rules HC; the German WW II fighter was in the society's custody for four decades until it was allegedly sold for a song in 2002

A plane that saw action in World War II - one which was subsequently gifted to the Nizam of Hyderabad by the British, and given to an education society for safe-keeping and study - is no longer with Karnataka. In fact, nobody has known of its whereabouts since 2002. Now, two academicians, who presided over the sale of that priceless antique, will have to face trial, the High Court has ruled.

The World War II Messerschmitt Bf 109 plane, which saw action in the Battle of Britain in 1940, is indeed gone. In 2002, it disappeared from the Hyderabad-Karnataka Education (HKE) Society's PDA College of Engineering, Kalaburgi, where it was kept on display for over four decades.

It was either sold by the society for Rs 1 lakh or exchanged for an old bike and other junk, depending on the various allegations you want to believe. But the fact remains that it is no longer in Karnataka, its home since 1942. The attempt by the Karnataka government to retain the plane failed and it reportedly surfaced in the black market in London.

BG Hawali, a former president of the HKE Society, and BD Maitri, principal of PDA College of Engineering, are the two persons who are to face the trial. Among other charges, the two have been slapped with Section 405 of the IPC for Criminal Breach of Trust.

The case against the other accused has either been dropped, or they have died.

The two approached the High Court back in 2010 with a petition seeking to quash the case against them. Seven years later, on July 31, the HC lifted the stay and dismissed their petition, paving the way for the trial to continue.

WWII gift

The plane was a gift to the Nizam of Hyderabad by the British in the year 1941. It was forgotten before being discovered, lying in a vacant place belonging to the then Gulbarga Municipality in 1958. The PDA Engineering College was entrusted with safe-keeping of the plane by the municipality "for the purpose of study for the engineering students".

In 2002, media reported that the HKE Society had decided to 'exchange' the aircraft for a helicopter, an antique motor vehicle, an antique scooter and an antique bicycle. The aircraft was reportedly given to one Girish Naidu, said to be a scrap dealer who brokered the sale/disappearance of the plane on behalf of an unknown foreign buyer.

Some reports claimed that it was sold for `1 lakh. A case was registered against 17 persons of the society and the college involved in the 'deal'.

By 2007, the charge sheet had been filed and the trial court had taken cognisance. The HC gave a stay on the trial in 2010 which continued till July 31 this year.
In the meantime, the aircraft was reportedly spotted in a plot belonging to Naidu in Bengaluru. The chief secretary of Karnataka passed an order that the aircraft cannot be taken out of the state after questions were raised about selling an antique property. However, the aircraft went missing soon after. It has not been recovered till date.

At the same time, the HC was informed that a special leave petition was pending in the Supreme Court. Another petition by 11 other accused was allowed and the case quashed against them. One other accused had died and one was absconding. The case was kept in abeyance till it was brought to the HC's notice in June this year that the SLP had been disposed.

The accused contended that there was no condition imposed by the municipality on what the Society cannot do with the aircraft. The prosecution contended that the aircraft was the property of the government. The Air Marshal had also written to state that it was the property of the government. The society was only given possession of it so that its engineering students could study it.

The HC, in its judgement, said that it cannot quash the case against the two as the charge sheet has already been filed. Citing earlier judgements, the HC said: "The case would be decided only after leading the evidence before the trial court but not at this stage. In that light, it cannot be held that there is no material against the petitioners-accused. Thus, this Court at this stage cannot interfere with the disputed questions of facts."

 
 
 

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