MUMBAI: In a dramatic twist to the case of lone survivor of Mumbai terror attacks, Judge M.L. Tahilyani of the Special Court in Mumbai yesterday sacked Anjali Waghmare, the lawyer appointed by the government to defend Ajmal Qasab, stating that she was involved in professional misconduct.
Moments after the high-profile trial kicked off in the top security Arthur Road Prison, the packed courtroom inside the jail was told there could be a conflict of interest as the lawyer defending Qasab had links to a potential prosecution witness.
“We need to give a just and fair trial to Qasab, and it is necessary to appoint a lawyer who can handle a case of this nature properly and with due diligence,” Tahilyani told the court.
The trial was held amidst highest ever security cover, with more than 700 policemen drawn from various departments guarding the prison and surrounding areas. No one without special security pass was allowed to move around the protected areas.
Some 20,000 local resident near the prohibited zone were given special passes. For the first time Qasab appeared in person before the judge. Earlier, he had interacted with the court through video-conferencing.
The sacking of Waghmare on the very first day came as a sever jolt to the police. The judge issued the sacking order after the special government prosecutor, Ujwal Nikam, had brought the discrepancy to the notice of the court. The court said Waghmare should have informed the court about this when she was appointed as Qasab’s lawyer, and removed her as his counsel.
Tahilyani in his order said that in the given circumstances it would not be appropriate for Waghmare to defend Qasab. “I revoke her appointment as Qasab’s lawyer,” the judge pronounced in his order. The judge also said that providing true legal aid is not a charity work but the right of an accused and maintained that K.P. Pawar, the deputy to Waghmare, will continue to work in the case.
According to legal experts, Waghmare would face disciplinary action over her irresponsible professional conduct, with the Maharashtra and Goa Bar Association likely to give her a notice for concealing facts from the court of her representing a witness in the case.
Qasab during the hearing, requested the judge to allow him to engage a lawyer from Pakistan. Nikam told the court that as the accused has the liberty to appoint a lawyer of his choice, his request would be forwarded to the federal government which would take appropriate steps in that direction.
Prior to Nikam’s objection to Waghmare, a city lawyer K. Lam had earlier volunteered to defend Qasab. He had written to the court last week objecting to Waghmare representing Qasab; he stated that there was professional misconduct on the part of Waghmare, as she was also representing a victim of the terror attack in a compensation claim.
Written by Shahid Burney | Arab News