Staff Reporter

MUMBAI: The trial in the case in connection with the serial blasts in Mumbai’s local trains is facing obstacles. The case could be delayed further with all 13 accused refusing to take the services of their lawyers and refusing to carry on with the court proceedings.

The accused, facing charges of terrorist activities, filed an application saying they wanted to discharge their lawyers as they did not want to participate in the court proceedings. Following this, the lawyers filed their withdrawal papers. The accused claimed that they did not believe in the special MCOCA court. Special Judge Mrudula Bhatkar had given them time till September 10 to get an order regarding their demand of transfer of court.

Public prosecutor Raja Thakre said: “When I saw their behaviour in the court I could not remain quiet and I had to intervene. I suggested to the court that strict action must be initiated against the accused.” The accused earlier protested in the open court at the stage of framing of charges when they refused to sign the papers, instead of pleading not guilty.

The trial was to begin in July 2007, a year after the explosions killed nearly 200 people and injured over 800. However, the accused submitted before the Special Judge that they did not have legal representation and sought time. Within the given time of few weeks the accused were represented by six lawyers and one amicus curiae and charges were framed amid high drama in August 2007.

Advocate Prakash Shetty, who represented four of the 13 accused, said, “even the application of transfer of court was not made through lawyers. It went from the jail straight. I do not see why the accused have resorted to this act. It is not in the interest of the accused.”

Asked about their statement regarding not having faith in this particular court, he said, “This judge is one of the finest. I do not see any reason for not believing in this court. But I have nothing to do with this matter anymore as I’ve filed my withdrawal papers.”

Advocate Farhana Shah, representing one accused, said she wouldn’t be appearing any further as the accused themselves had desired so. “What can we do now? We won’t appear from now on.”

The court has fixed September 10 as the next date. However, lawyers are not certain about the future of this trial. “Now they do not have lawyers. They may engage new ones in the future. They may represent themselves or the court may appoint amicus curiae. But once the charges are framed, the trial has to continue. It is the court’s discretion as to what further legal action can be taken,” said Mr. Shetty.

The accused, several of them members of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India, and having links with the terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba, allegedly executed a conspiracy on July 11.