Right approach

Judge M L Tahaliani who is conducting the trial in the November 26 terrorist case in a Mumbai special sessions court has rightly decided to continue the trial in spite of the confession made by the surviving Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab. As the judge pointed out, Kasab has made an admission of guilt but not a confession. Even if the substantial part of the Kasab’s admission is taken at face value, it has to be completely credible, free of loopholes and supported by witness accounts, to be legally accepted as correct. The admission fails on many of these counts. In the first place, Kasab has made the statement after retracting one he had earlier made to a magistrate. There are differences between both statements. He has also introduced fresh information in the latest statement. Therefore how can it be certain that he has said all the truth and only the truth?

It is likely that Kasab has volunteered to confess because he felt it could help to reduce the severity of his punishment. He might also have been advised to do so in view of the strong case against him. He has actually tried to shift the greater responsibility for the killings to others, especially to Abu Ismail, who was also with him in Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, but died in the encounter. Witness accounts contradict Kasab’s claim. The real and full extent of his culpability will be clear only when all the witness accounts and the entire evidence are presented before the court. It is not just Kasab’s guilt that has to be proved. The trial has to shed light on all aspects of the entire terrorist operation. However, Kasab has made the prosecution’s task easier.

Kasab’s statement is important for the details he provides about the preparations and the training he received for the operation in Pakistan and the details about those who planned it. He has named Lashkar-e-Toiba and its operations chief Zakiur Lahman Lakhvi. These are not new but the name of an Indian who he said taught him Hindi has not been mentioned before. The impact of this admission on the trial of Lakhvi and others in Pakistan cannot be predicted. Pakistan’s reaction to Kasab’s statement is unfortunate. Defence minister Chaudhary  Mukhtar has said he was coerced to admit his guilt. Does he think Kasab is innocent?

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