Witness' evidence against them has not been corroborated: court

The prosecution's failure to make a foolproof case against Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin Ahmed, the two Indians accused in the 26/11 case, entitled them to “the benefit of the doubt.”

According to the prosecution, Fahim made a handmade map of target locations in Mumbai and Sabahuddin was responsible for conveying them to the Lashkar handlers.

Upholding their acquittals by the lower court, the Bombay High Court on Monday ruled: “As held by the learned sessions judge, Fahim and Sabahuddin must get the benefit of the doubt.”

The High Court concurred with the trial court's view that the evidence of Naruddin Shaikh, key witness against the two, was not corroborated. Naruddin testified in the lower court to having seen sketches of Mumbai locations during an exchange between Fahim and Sabahuddin in Nepal.

“Conviction cannot be based only on Naruddin's evidence,” Justice Ranjana Desai observed. Though there was evidence of Fahim staying in south Mumbai under a false name, that “does not prove [the prosecution's theory on] the exchange of maps.”

The High Court also endorsed the doubts raised by the lower court over the absence of wrinkles and blood stains on the sketch allegedly recovered from the person of deceased accused Abu Ismail, as “a reasonably possible view.” It decided to “exclude” that part of Kasab's confession which spoke of the involvement of the duo.

“The stand taken by the learned sessions judge so far as the involvement of Fahim and Sabahuddin is concerned cannot be called unreasonable, palpably false, manifestly erroneous and demonstrably unsustainable which merits our interference. The State appeal will, therefore, have to be dismissed,” said the Division Bench which included Justice R.V. More.

Commenting on this setback to the prosecution, Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said, “While the lower court rejected the evidence, the High Court accepted it, but said there was no corroboration.”

Fahim's lawyer R.V. Mokashi said, “We were expecting this verdict. This is the triumph of truth. We will [argue our case on similar lines] in the Supreme Court. Facts don't alter.”

Fahim's wife Yasmin Ansari, who came to the court, told The Hindu: “We were all waiting for the judgment. I was expecting the acquittal. I met Fahim last Wednesday and he was hopeful too. He was not afraid at all.”

Speaking to The Hindu on the phone from Uttar Pradesh, Sabahuddin's mother Shagufta Bano said, “People came to congratulate me. We were confident. The prosecution framed Sabahuddin.” She said the family's modest means did not allow it to come to Mumbai for the verdict.

Both Fahim and Sabahuddin are also involved in separate cases in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh. Sabahuddin is allegedly involved in the 2008 attack on a Central Reserve Police Force camp in Rampur and the 2005 attack on the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore. Fahim has a case against him in Rampur for forgery and possession of a weapon.

Ms. Shagufta Bano said the family had decided not to be in touch with Sabahuddin until he was acquitted in all the cases.

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