Mumbai, Sept 29: The Bombay High Court today admitted an appeal filed by Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab challenging the death penalty awarded to him for his role in the 26/11 attacks but rejected his plea for a closed-door interview with lawyers in jail. The 25-page appeal will be heard by justices Ranjana Desai and R V More along with confirmation of death sentence awarded to Kasab on a daily basis from October 18. The State's appeal against acquittal of Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed will also be clubbed along with these matters. The court has restrained Kasab from appearing in person but said he would be present through video conference.
On October 6, the bench would give its ruling on who should open arguments first -- State or Defence.
Government counsel Ujjwal Nikam said Kasab's appeal should be heard first and if that fails only then confirmation of death sentence should be taken up, while Kasab's lawyer Amin Solkar insisted he would argue after Nikam concludes. In a separate development, the court rejected Kasab's plea for a private conference with lawyers looking into his past record of aggressiveness towards jail staff. The judges also took into account CCTV footage presented to the court by Nikam showing Kasab assaulting jail personnel on September 1. "Threat perception to Kasab cannot be questioned by this court in a case of this nature. National interest and safety outweighs all other considerations. We, therefore, reject the prayer for legal interview not within hearing distance of jail staff," the court ruled. The court, however, made it clear that the interview would be allowed but in the presence of jail staff and that no police personnel, including those connected with the 26/11 case, would remain present. The court took on record confidential reports about Kasab's aggressive moves in jail and said these would remain in a sealed cover until the hearing concluded. The court agreed with Nikam that the presence of jail staff was necessary within hearing distance from Kasab, taking into account the serious threat perception.
"The presence of jail staff is a must in this case. Having seen relevant rules and CCTV footage we are of the view that the judgements cited by Kasab's lawyer are not applicable here. The applicant can have interviews within the sight and hearing of jail staff," the judges noted.
Outside the court, Kasab's lawyer said, "We are thinking to challenge this order in Supreme court".
In the appeal, Kasab sought acquittal on 57 grounds saying he was wrongly convicted as the trial judge had erred by not properly appreciating evidence. Eyewitnesses had identified him in the court as his photographs had appeared in the media soon after 26/11 incident.
Kasab said the trial court had only partially accepted his confession. This was incorrect in law as the confession should either be accepted or rejected in entirety. Also, he said, the trial court had erred in holding that his confession was true and voluntary.
On May 6, the trial court had sentenced Kasab to death in connection with the Mumbai terror attacks that left 166 people dead and many more wounded. PTI