Pakistan national Ajmal Kasab, facing death sentence in the Mumbai 26/11 terror attack, alleged in the Supreme Court on Tuesday that he did not get a free and fair trial as he was denied a lawyer at the first instance to defend himself in the case. One sixty-six persons were killed in the attack.

Senior counsel Raju Ramachandran, who was appointed by the court as counsel to Kasab, argued before a Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and C.K. Prasad that the whole trial was vitiated as Kasab was unable to defend himself properly. Mr. Ramachandran pleaded for setting aside the conviction and death sentence, which was stayed by the Bench earlier in October 2011.

Counsel said, “In the interest of speedy trial my [Kasab's] right to a free, fair trail has been jeopardised and jettisoned.”

The Bench is hearing Kasab's appeal as also that of the Maharashtra government challenging two other acquittals in the case.

'Lawyer got no time'

Counsel pointed out that assistance of lawyer was provided to Kasab at a very late stage and, as a result, his lawyer did not get adequate time to prepare to defend Kasab properly. Every person accused of an offence had the right to have a counsel. Kasab was not informed of his rights to have a lawyer at the initial stages.

“If he had a lawyer in the first place, he would not have made a confession,” Mr. Ramachandran said adding Kasab had retracted his confession. At no stage was the Pakistan national informed of his right to have a lawyer and the right not to self-incriminate himself under the Indian Constitution, he argued, urging the court to reject his confession as evidence.

Procedural irregularities

Mr. Ramachandran cited several other procedural irregularities to drive home the point that there was no free and fair trial in Kasab's case. These include the trial court decision not to permit his lawyer, Abbas Kazmi, enough time to prepare his case and defend him. Mr. Kazmi had sought four weeks' time, but he got only eight days to prepare for the case that had such voluminous documents.

Mr. Ramachandran also contended that even if charges of murder and terror acts were to be proved against Kasab, the charge of waging a war against the Government of India could not be invoked against him. “He is not a part of the larger conspiracy [to wage war].”

However, Justice Alam told counsel: “Larger conspiracy charge will apply to any individual acts such as murder.”

Both the judges also wondered why the defence counsel did not insist on more time to prepare for the case.

Arguments will continue on Wednesday.

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