26/11 verdict out, India may allow another Pakistan panel to visit

Ajamal Kasab

With the Supreme Court confirming 26/11 attacker Ajmal Kasab's death sentence, there is a narrow possibility India might revisit the question of allowing another Pakistani judicial commission to visit and record statements.

One of the reasons the Pakistani anti-terror court hearing the 26/11 case in Rawalpindi rejected the report of the last judicial commission as evidence was that the team did not cross-examine judicial and police officers who recorded Kasab's statement.

Reacting to the Indian Supreme Court verdict, Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said on the sidelines of the NAM summit in Tehran, "India knows that it cannot not allow people (judicial commission) from Pakistan access and expect to move forward."

The Pakistani judicial commission was allowed to record the statements of the metropolitan magistrate before whom Kasab made his confession, and the police officer who interrogated him, but was not allowed to cross-examine them.

As per criminal court procedures in India and Pakistan, evidence cannot be accepted without cross-examination.

India's CrPC has the provision to allow cross-examination, but the Home Ministry feared Pakistan's inference of Kasab's interrogation might differ with India's, leading to fresh complications when the Supreme Court was hearing his appeal.

Any difference between what the Pakistani team submitted to the Rawalpindi court and what Indian prosecutors had submitted to the Supreme Court might have been picked up by Kasab's legal team as an example of Indian prejudice.

Sources said the trust deficit between New Delhi and Islamabad engendered suspicion that the Pakistani team might spring a surprise after the cross-examination, which might have ended up helping Kasab than nailed those accused in Pakistan.

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