Wednesday, September 29, 2010

HC rejects Kasab’s plea for closed-door interview with lawyers

With strong objections from the prosecution and police and after taking note of the past records of Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, the Mumbai terror convict, the Bombay High Court today rejected his plea for a closed-door meeting with lawyers

Taking note of the past records and aggressive behaviour of Pakistani terrorist Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, the Bombay High Court today rejected his plea for a closed-door meeting with lawyers to take a stand on the confirmation of death sentence awarded to him for his role in the 26/11 attacks.

Justice Ranjana Desai and Justice R. V.More, while dismissing the plea, said they had viewed a CD of CCTV footage submitted by Government Counsel Ujjwal Nikam which showed Kasab attacking prison personnel on September 1 and also considered the past experiences of Kasab on his aggressive posture in jail.

“Threat perception to Kasab cannot be questioned by this court in a case of this nature....National interest and safety outweighs all other considerations. Therefore, we reject Kasab’s prayer seeking legal interview not within the hearing distance of jail staff and police,” the two-judge bench observed.

Kasab’s lawyer Amin Solkar argued that enough security had been provided in and around the jail where Kasab is lodged and said his client wanted to give him instructions in a free atmosphere and not in the presence of police and jail staff.

Nikam objected to Kasab’s plea, saying he was a trained commando, and with swift movements he could pose a danger to his own life as well as to jail guards. Presence of jail staff was necessary to control his aggressive movements.

He submitted confidential reports about Kasab’s behaviour in jail during the trial and thereafter.

The High Court ordered that these reports be kept confidential till the hearing concludes.

The court agreed with Nikam that the presence of jail staff was necessary within a hearing distance from Kasab, taking into account serious threat perception to him and his past experiences in judicial custody.

However, it made it clear that police personnel, particularly those connected with the 26/11 investigation, shall not remain present during the interview.

The Bench referred to judgements given by Supreme Court and Rajasthan HC which had imposed reasonable restrictions on interviews of convicts with lawyers.

The Judges referred to Rule 9(7) of Maharashtra Prison Rules (MPR) which states that if any objectionable matter is being discussed between a convict and his lawyer, the jailer has the discretion to stop it.

They mentioned Rule 11 of MPR which says that every interview with a prisoner shall be held in the presence of jail staff. They also pointed to Rule 13 which states that if interview is in a language not understood by jailer then it can be allowed only in the presence of an interpretor.

The court was of the view that a jailer could use his discretion in allowing convicts, particularly those who have been awarded death sentence, to have interviews with lawyers.

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“.

On May 6, Kasab was awarded death penalty by the trial court for his role in the November 26, 2008 attacks that left 166 people dead.

While handing down death sentence, the court had said that keeping him alive will be a “lingering danger“.

“Keeping Kasab alive would be a lingering danger to the society and the Indian Government,” Special Judge M. L Tahaliyani had observed and added “the possibility of Kasab reforming is completely ruled out.”

The Pakistani terrorist, the only one to be caught alive among the 10 attackers, is lodged in a bomb and bullet— proof cell in the Arthur Road Jail here which is heavily guarded by Indo-Tibetan Border Police.

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