HC allows conditional summons of commandos
The Bombay High Court on Wednesday said the special judge hearing the 26/11 terror attack case was within his powers to summon the National Security Guard (NSG) commandos who took part in the operation.india Updated: Nov 05, 2009 00:36 IST
The Bombay High Court on Wednesday said the special judge hearing the 26/11 terror attack case was within his powers to summon the National Security Guard (NSG) commandos who took part in the operation.
But it said conditions would apply, to protect the confidentiality of their techniques.
This came after the Centre challenged the summons to NSG commandos to depose in the trial of Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone captured Pakistani gunman.
The division bench of Justice J.N. Patel and Justice Amjad Sayed asked Additional Solicitor General Darius Khambata to tell them which part of the NSG operation needed to be kept secret so they would not be questioned on those aspects.
Justice Patel said both prosecution and defence would be restrained from asking such questions.
The court said the trial court would have to take permission from the HC if it wanted to call more than three commandos.
Khambata said this seemed “reasonable”, and that he would seek instructions from the Centre in this regard.
Khambata had opposed the summons to the commandos saying confidentiality and secrecy are the essence of commando operations, and disclosing them in open court could jeopardise future operations and the commandos’ safety.
“The prosecution has examined nearly 250 witnesses, shown closed-circuit footage from inside the hotels, put up intercepted conversations, and the judicial confessions of Kasab. What more is needed to prove the charges against the terrorist?” asked Khambata.
When Justice Patel remarked that the media had covered the commandos and their operations, Khambata reasoned that the media was not privy to operations inside the respective buildings.
“That is exactly why the judge has called the commandos – to see how they killed the terrorists,” he said. “It is not about the weapons they use, but the techniques and their placement at the time of the operation.”
Citing Section 311 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which gives the court wide powers to summon witnesses, Justice Patel said the commandos were witnesses to the incident and their deposition may be necessary for the trial court to reach a just conclusion.
“They were not witness to the incident where the terrorists had killed civilians,” replied Khambata. The court refused to hear defence counsel Shahid Azmi, who sought the commandos be summoned. “You do not have a say in this,” remarked Justice Sayed.
The next hearing is on Thursday.