Row over Pak panel demand to cross-examine witnesses
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A controversy is brewing over the visit of the 26/11 judicial commission from Pakistan on the eve of its arrival in Mumbai on Wednesday with panel members saying they would cross-examine the four prosecution witnesses, while Indian authorities said they would only be allowed to record statements.
Members of the Pakistan commission were confident that cross-examination of witnesses would be allowed. But sources in the Mumbai Police and the Ministry of Home Affairs told Newsline that the Centre was not inclined to allow it. Sources said Indian authorities had conveyed their reluctance in allowing cross-examination of witnesses to their Pakistani counterparts.
"It is absurd if people are wondering whether cross-examination will be allowed. It should naturally be allowed, and that is the sole reason why prosecutors and defence advocates are travelling to Mumbai as part of the commission. The proceedings will be in accordance with the directions and notification issued by the Anti-Terrorism Court. We are going with the brief of cross-examining the four witnesses," Khwaja Haris Ahmed, defence counsel for Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi told Newsline.
However, a senior Mumbai Police officer said, "While in normal circumstances, the purpose of having both the defence and prosecution as part of the commission would be to conduct cross-examination of witnesses, the Centre does not want to grant permission for the same. While we are told that this has been conveyed to Pakistan, there is no official communication from the government to the Mumbai Police on this issue."
Clear directions from the Centre on whether cross-examination will be permitted would be conveyed on Thursday, Mumbai Police sources said.
The judicial commission reached New Delhi from Lahore on Wednesday evening, and is expected to land in Mumbai on Thursday. The commission will examine Ganesh Niutkar, a doctor from JJ Hospital who conducted autopsies of some of the victims of the attack, Shailesh Mohite, a doctor from Nair Hospital who conducted the post-mortem of Pakistani gunman Abu Ismail, investigating officer Ramesh Mahale of the Mumbai Police Crime Branch, and Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate R V Sawant Waghule who recorded Ajmal Kasab's confession in February 2009.
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