Kasab trial to go on, has not admitted to all charges: Judge

Written by Political Bureau | Mumbai | Updated: Jul 25 2009, 04:26am hrs
Ajmal Amir Kasabs demand that the special court trying him in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack case accept his guilty plea and convict him right away failed to find approval. Judge M L Tahaliyani ruled today that the lone surviving Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorist had only partially accepted his guilt and the trial needed to continue.

The prosecution has almost completed presenting three-fourth of the evidence. At the outset, I am not inclined to pronounce the judgment after recording the (guilty) plea as the accused has not admitted to all charges, the judge said. He has admitted only to certain charges of the 86 charges framed against him and it is necessary that the admission of guilt forms a part of the record and remains on record to be considered at the appropriate time. Tahaliyani also did not accept Kasabs lawyer Abbas Kazmis plea to reject his clients confession and not take it on record. This argument as a general proposition cannot be accepted but since the statement has been made it cannot be overlooked and it has to be taken on record but its evidential value cannot be weighed at this moment, he said.

In a move that came as a complete surprise to both the prosecution and the defence, Kasab pleaded guilty to his crimes in court on Monday and, in a four-hour statement, narrated a series of events starting with his joining the Lashkar, the attack on Mumbai and his capture. Dramatically, he also sought capital punishment for his crimes, saying he was not pleading guilty in the hope of a lesser sentence.

But the court refused to oblige him. Kasab has made a partial admission of his guilt. From the prosecutions plea and relying on the Bombay High Court and apex court judgments, it is clear that the admission of guilt remains on record and the court continues with the trial, Tahaliyani said.

He also rejected the contention of the prosecution that the guilty plea was an attempt to delay the trial and win some sympathy. I dont think that there is any tactical move by Kasab to scuttle the trial to help his mentors in Pakistan, the judge said.

After pronouncing his order, Tahaliyani explained it to Kasab in a mix of Hindi and Urdu. He told him that he could not be sentenced immediately because of his partial admission of guilt and that he will have to face a full trial. Kasab nodded his head and sat down. During the post-lunch session, he mostly looked serious but smiled occasionally.

Reacting to the courts order, Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said, The drama staged by Kasab has been finally stopped. The court has accepted our claim that the actor has made only a partial admission of his guilt and more evidence needs to be adduced to pin down the entire conspiracy behind the ghastly Mumbai terror attack hatched in Pakistan.

Nikam said that he needed to examine no more than 50 witnesses, including FBI agents, to wrap up the evidence against Kasab and the two others accused, Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin Ahmed. Kazmi merely said that it was the courts discretion to accept or reject the plea which it has accordingly done after considering several factors.

Earlier, speaking after the judge had ruled that the trial would continue, Kazmi had surprised the court saying he wanted to withdraw from the case because he claimed that Kasab had no confidence in him and in such a circumstance he did not wish to defend him. Sir I wish to withdraw, he doesnt speak to me, neither takes my legal assistance, so it is improper for me to continue as his lawyer, Kazmi said.

When Tahaliyani sought Kasabs response to this, the prisoner said, Maine nahin kaha, woh apne taraf se mehsoos kar rahein hai (I have not told him, this is his own feeling).

Tahaliyani then asked Kazmi and Kasab to talk to each other and resolve the matter. The lawyer and his client spoke during the lunch break after which Kazmi informed the court that he would continue defending Kasab.