Mumbai, Mar 16: A metropolitan court today rejected the plea of a Pakistani judicial Commission to cross examine four key witnesses in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks case, saying it was not permissible.
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate S S Shinde, however, allowed the Commission members to record the statements of the witnesses, including a magistrate who had recorded the confessional statement of the lone surviving assailant Ajmal Kasab.
The Indian Government had earlier informed the visiting Pakistani panel that it would not be allowed to cross examine any witnesses. The Commission was also informed that they would not be permitted to meet Kasab, who has been awarded death penalty.
However, today, the Commission insisted before CMM Shinde that the panel be allowed to cross examine the witnesses so that those could be presented before a Pakistani Court hearing the 26/11 case as evidence.
Ujjwal Nikam, Special Public Prosecutor who had conducted the 26/11 trial, strongly objected to the cross examination by the Commission, arguing that the Pakistani government had earlier agreed to only recording of their statements.
“Then why is the Commission seeking to cross examine them now?” Nikam asked, according to sources close to the proceedings that were held in camera. Following rejection of their plea, the Commission members proceeded with the recording of the statements.
The first witness to record her statement was Magistrate R V Sawant Waghule, who had recorded Kasab's confession soon after his arrest following the attacks.
The statement of Waghule is important for the Commission because Kasab had told her in his confession that he and nine other terrorists had been sent from Karachi to Mumbai by LeT to carry out the deadly strikes.
Besides Waghule, the eight-member Commission is slated to record the statements of Investigating officer in the 26/11 case Ramesh Mahale and two doctors.
The statements of Mahale and the doctors—Medical Officer (forensic department) of JJ Hospital Ganesh Nitukar and Shailesh Mohit of civic-run Nair hospital—are likely to be recorded tomorrow.
The doctors had conducted autopsies on the nine slain terrorists and victims of the assault which lasted nearly 72 hours and left in its bloody trail 166 dead and many more wounded.
The panel is in India to record the statements of the four witnesses on behalf of a Pakistani anti-terror court that is hearing the case against LeT commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and six other suspects in the 26/11 attacks in that country. The statements would be used as evidence against the accused in the trial.
The Pakistani commission had arrived here yesterday by an Air-India flight amidst tight security after repeated postponement of their visit.
The Commission, headed by special Prosecutor Zulfiqar Ali, had held a closed door meeting with Nikam in New Delhi yesterday.
Nikam refused to divulge details of the meeting but had said “the evidence of these witnesses would help Pakistan nail the perpetrators of the 26/11 terror attack”.
“The evidence of these four witnesses are crucial for Pakistani prosecuting agency so that they can use these statements for successful prosecution of the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attack,” sources said.
Besides Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali, other members of the panel are prosecutor Chaudhry Azhar, Azad Khan, Deputy Director of the Federal Investigation Agency and defence lawyers Khwaja Haris, Riyaz Akram Choudhary, Fakhar Haayat, Raja Ehassan Ulhakhan and Isaam Bin Haris.
The anti-terrorism court in Pakistan is conducting the trial of seven suspects, including Lakhvi, who have been charged with planning, financing and executing the terror attacks in Mumbai.
The trial of the seven Pakistani suspects has been stalled due to legal hurdles.
Pakistani prosecutors have said the Commission's visit to India is necessary to take forward the trial.
On November 26, 2008, Kasab, and nine other LeT terrorists had landed here by sea and shot dead 166 people and wounded many more during a 72-hour siege.