Ejaz Naqvi, advocate for the 26/11 accused Sabahuddin Ahmed, on Monday moved an application before the special sessions court, seeking to make National Investigation Agency chief S.C. Sinha and three others defence witnesses.

The other witnesses sought in Mr. Naqvi’s application are filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt’s son Rahul Bhatt, and Vilas Varak, a trainer at the Moksha gym which American terror suspect David Headley frequented. S.S. Khandwawala, Director-General of Police, Gujarat, had also been named as his was the “first investigating agency to register an FIR in connection with the Headley affair,” Mr. Naqvi said.

(As per media reports, the special branch of the Ahmedabad police registered a complaint in January this year against the owner of a hotel, where terror suspect Tahawwur Hussain Rana and a woman posing as his wife stayed for two days in November 2008 prior to the Mumbai attacks.)

Mr. Naqvi argued that statements of these witnesses were important to establish Headley’s key role in carrying out a reconnaissance of various targets, and thus had a bearing on Sabahuddin’s case.

The police have indicted Fahim Ansari for doing the recce of locations and preparing maps, and Sabahuddin for handing over the maps to the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

While the court remarked about the futility of recording the statements of the proposed witnesses, it reserved order on the application for Tuesday.

Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam called Mr. Naqvi’s move a publicity stunt. “Our case is that attackers were given maps in addition to GPS [Global Positioning System] sets. At this point, our investigating agency has not interrogated Headley, but learnt of his role through the media. The statements of the witnesses are not relevant. Naqvi has not pointed out how the examination of the witnesses would be relevant. My friend is [working] on a hypothesis.”

Judge M.L. Tahaliyani said the court would have to take judicial notice of the involvement of Headley and the Canada-based Rana.

Bail rejected

The court rejected Fahim’s bail plea on the ground that it would be impossible for him to be out of jail, owing to his involvement in another offence in Rampur, for which his custody would be sought by the Uttar Pradesh police. As for giving him bail on the merits of the case, Mr. Tahaliyani said: “It would not be necessary and proper to comment as the case was heading for a conclusion.”

The court rejected as baseless Fahim’s allegations that the Mumbai Crime Branch was responsible for the murder of his lawyer Shahid Azmi and that Azmi had complained of police pressure to his (Fahim’s) wife. The court said Fahim had not submitted his wife’s affidavit to that effect. Mr. Tahaliyani asked the accused why he was unnecessarily dragging his wife’s name into a controversy.

Mr. Nikam, arguing against bail, said Fahim’s contention was “frivolous and mischievous.”

Court upset

The court raised a strong objection to an article in Hindustan Times titled “Kasab trial is a joke. It’s like we’ve learned nothing, a compilation of readers letters.” Mr. Tahaliyani said the title, especially the first part, was irresponsibly worded as none of the readers had actually opined that the trial was a joke.

Expressing his displeasure, he said: “What does it mean the trial is a joke? This cannot be tolerated. Why should a national paper carry such a cheap headline? You should behave with responsibility. Public outcry is one thing, a court trial is another. The public is bound to react since the incident is of such a nature, but we are responsible citizens.”

Mr. Tahaliyani has asked for a suo motu reply from the Editor, failing which the court would take a suo motu decision about the article.

Affidavits

In another developments, the court has allowed the affidavits of formal witnesses although the prosecution filed them “belatedly.” Acknowledging the prosecution’s “mistake,” the court said it was its duty to examine the material on record under Section 311 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Defence would cross-examine one witness on Tuesday.

The accused-gunman, Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab, complained of ill-health grumbling before the court, without permission, that he would “contract TB.” However, his lawyer K.P. Pawar dismissed his complaint as pretence.

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