It was not allowed to cross-examine key witnesses, officials, says court

The Pakistani court hearing the Mumbai terror attack case has held as non-admissible the findings of the judicial commission that visited India in March to record statements of witnesses and officials who had recorded the confessional testimony of Ajmal Kasab, the terrorist nabbed alive.

Defence lawyer Khwaja Haris said the Anti-Terrorism Court was of the view that the commission report had no legal value as it was not allowed to cross-examine witnesses and officials during its visit. When the prosecution sought the court’s permission to send the commission on a second visit to India, the judge said it would be pointless unless both governments agreed that the Pakistani team could cross-examine key witnesses and officials.

According to Mr. Haris, the prosecution has been given time till Saturday to inform the court about its future course of action: Proceed with the case on the basis of available and admissible evidence or await an agreement between the two governments on cross-examining the witnesses by the Pakistani commission.

The commission had returned, protesting the refusal of permission to cross-examine officials and key witnesses. Mr. Haris said Pakistan gave an undertaking to India on November 5, 2010, that witnesses and officials would not be cross-examined by the commission.

It was only after this undertaking that India agreed in principle in March 2011 to allow a commission to record statements; that after securing an assurance of a reciprocal visit by an Indian commission to Pakistan. The Pakistan commission’s visit took another year to materialise.

Pakistan opted for the commission route in August 2010 after India refused to send Kasab here to testify in the anti-terror court. The court had declared that Kasab’s confessional statement was inadmissible as per Pakistani law. To get around this, Pakistan decided to invoke the provisions of Chapter XL of the Code of Criminal Procedure to send a commission to record the statements of witnesses and officials involved in the investigation.