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Dead India Pilots Charges Dropped

July 20, 2000

PATNA, India (AP) _ Police on Thursday withdrew criminal charges against the dead pilots of a jet that crashed in eastern India, killing 56 people.

U.N. Panjiar, home commissioner of the Bihar state where the crash took place, said his department had withdrawn the First Information Report, filed Wednesday in the police station closest to the crash site, because a broader judicial investigation was already under way.

The two pilots, 49 other people on board and five people on the ground were killed Monday when their Alliance Air Boeing 737-200 plummeted into a housing complex near the airport in Patna, Bihar’s capital.

The criminal complaint based its charges on a statement from Prachi Rajgarhia, one of seven surviving passengers.

Panjiar said the complaint should have been made against ``unknown persons,″ without naming the pilots.

The complaint had accused Captain M.S. Sohanpal and co-pilot A.S. Bagga of violating five different counts of Indian criminal and aviation laws. They included ``culpable homicide not amounting to murder″ and ``rash driving or riding in a public place.″

Such complaints _ the first step in a criminal case in India _ are submitted to a judge, who decides if there is enough evidence to merit a trial. It was unusual that such charges were lodged against deceased persons and it is unlikely that the case would go to trial.

``(The complaint) was filed at the lower level and perhaps they were not aware of the inquiry ordered,″ Panjiar said.

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