Pakistani commission records statement of key 26/11 witness

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Pakistani judicial commission on Friday began recording the statements of key witnesses in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks after a metropolitan court dismissed its plea for cross-examining them following a wrangle over the mandate of the panel, Indian media reported. The in-camera proceedings at the Esplanade Court saw a dispute arise over the mandate of the panel which insisted on cross-examination of the witnesses, including the magistrate who had recorded the confessional statement of Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving perpetrator of the massacre of 166 people, PTI reported. Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, who had led the trial against Kasab, and was assisting the witnesses, objected to the commission’s plea and there was a “hot exchange of words” between him and the panel members, a source close to the proceedings said. When the head of the visiting commission and Pakistan’s Special Public Prosecutor Zulfiqar Ali contended that cross-examination was legally permitted, Nikam asked him to inform the court about the arrangement mutually agreed upon by the two countries.
As Ali continued to insist on cross-examination, Nikam said Indian CrPC provided for adherence to what had been agreed upon by the two countries while making such an arrangement.
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate SS Shinde finally disallowed the commission from cross-examining the witnesses, accepting Nikam’s plea that both the countries had mutually agreed in October 2010 that only their statements would be recorded. Moreover, Nikam argued that since the appeal of Kasab against his conviction and death penalty was pending in the Supreme Court, legal proceedings in India would be hampered if witnesses were allowed to be cross-examined at this stage. Following permission from Shinde, the panel began recording the statement of magistrate RV Sawant Waghule, who had recorded the confession of Kasab soon after his arrest following the attacks. It took over an hour to record the statement of Waghule, sources said.