The defence in the 26/11 trial on Wednesday submitted that it wanted to call upon Maharashtra Revenue Minister Narayan Rane to depose before the court, in the light of his public statement about a political link in the terror conspiracy. The court however rejected this plea on the ground that it lacked merit.

Hinting at local involvement, Mr. Rane made a statement before the press in December 2008 that some politicians were offering logistical support to terror groups. However, he did not name anybody.

Moving an application for the examination of Mr. Rane as the sole defence witness, Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab’s lawyer K.P. Pawar said, “Mr. Rane made a certain statement in public that some local elements were involved in the alleged conspiracy. If this witness is called, he might tell the court who these elements were.”

Mr. Pawar argued that his client Kasab was facing serious charges of criminal conspiracy, conspiracy to wage war and collection of arms with the intention of waging war, in addition to other charges.

“This conspiracy is not limited to my client,” he said. He stated that the “gravity of offence” allegedly committed by his client would be reduced.

Judge M.L. Tahaliyani observed that neither Kasab not his lawyer was clear about what evidence they wanted to lead. Unless that was clear, calling the Minister would be “a futile attempt and a waste of the court’s precious time.”

He told Mr. Pawar, “We are not here to make news for the media.”

This is the second time a defence lawyer has called for Mr. Rane’s deposition before the court. Last April, Sabahuddin Ahmed’s lawyer Ejaz Naqvi proposed to examine former Union Minister for Minority Affairs A.R. Antulay and Mr. Rane.

The possibility of calling witnesses from Pakistan has been ruled out. Though Kasab said he wanted to examine witnesses from Pakistan, there was no submission to that effect on Wednesday and Mr. Pawar too denied any such move in future, while speaking to journalists.

February 20

The recording of the statements of all the three accused under section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) is over. However, Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam is likely give request for a few more questions to be put to Mr. Kasab. On Wednesday, Sabahuddin Ahmed denied his involvement in delivering the maps of target locations in Nepal. He said the evidence given by an eyewitness was false and that he was falsely implicated. At the time of the attack, he was in a jail in Lucknow, he said. The 26/11 case will now come on board on February 20. It gives the lawyers of both sides almost a month to prepare their arguments. Mr. Tahaliyani told the advocates that the dates for arguments would be fixed on February 20 after assessing the progress made by the lawyers.

Ejaz Naqvi, Sabahuddin’s lawyer, told the journalists that he had plans to call upon filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt’s son Rahul Bhatt, Vilas Varak and Bobby Ghosh as witnesses. The three are reported to have encountered American terror suspect David Coleman Headley during his stay in Mumbai. Headley is currently facing trial in the U.S. for his role in the 26/11 conspiracy.

Recording statements of there accused over; 26/11 case to come on board on February 20

At the time of attack I was in Lucknow jail, I am falsely implicated: Sabahuddin Ahmed

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