26/11 Mumbai terror attacks: Kasab’s lawyers are yet to get their fees from Maha govt
Two lawyers who defended Ajmal Kasab in the 2008 Mumbai attack case on the directions of the Bombay High Court are yet to get their legal fees from the Maharashtra government.
While the state government says they have not submitted any bills, the lawyers say that state prosecutors are not supposed to.
The two lawyers -- Amin Solkar and Farhana Shah -- were tasked with defending Kasab, hanged to death on November 21, 2012 for killing over 166 people in Mumbai, by the Maharashtra State Legal Services Department after they were nominated by then acting Chief Justice of Bombay High Court J N Patel.
A notification about their appointment was issued on June 8, 2010 after Kasab had expressed his desire to contest the verdict of the trial court sentencing him to death in the Bombay High Court. According to the notification, Solkar was to receive remuneration equivalent to what is sanctioned for a public prosecutor, who conducts a death confirmation appeal, and Shah was to receive fees on par with an assistant prosecutor.
Keeping in tradition with the fairness of the trial, the law allows for appointment of a lawyer from the legal services department if accused is unable to do so.
Solkar and Shah had argued for Kasab in the Bombay High Court against his death sentence almost on a day-to-day basis for nearly nine months before it confirmed the death sentence on the lone gunman, who sprayed bullets barbarically on November 26, 2008. His conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court a year later and he was hanged to death in 2012 inside the Yerwada prison in Pune.
When contacted by PTI, both Solkar and Shah said they are yet to receive their fees.
Both the lawyers said they had given the case priority as the high court was hearing it on a day-to-day basis from 11am to 5pm. “I do not know why the state government has not made any efforts to pay us our fees. It has been seven years since the judgment was delivered by the high court. The Supreme Court confirmed the death penalty and Kasab is also dead. But we are still waiting (for the fees),” Solkar told PTI.
He said he was contemplating legal action to get his dues cleared from the state government.
“We are only asking for what is legally due to us. The law says every accused should get a fair trial. To ensure this, we were appointed to defend Kasab... then why this delay in paying us our fees,” Solkar said.
Shah, on the other hand, says she has given up hopes that she will get her remuneration for appearing in the case.
“I have now given up. I consider it as a pro bono case (a case taken up voluntarily and without payment),” Shah, who had defended several accused in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts case, told PTI.
While the exact amount per hearing was not known, sources in the know put the figure somewhere between ₹1,500 to ₹2,000 per day.
An official from the state government’s law and judiciary department said the government would pay the fees only after the two lawyers submit their bills.
To this, both Solkar and Shah said the need to submit bills does not arise at all as they were appointed by the high court and a notification to this effect was issued by the government.
“Does the government ask for bills from the public prosecutor before giving them their remuneration?” Solkar said.
Abbas Kazmi, a lawyer who had defended Kasab before trial judge M L Tahalayani, claims he has been paid by the government for his services.
“My remuneration was given by the government soon after the completion of the trial,” Kazmi said, adding he got his fees without having to submit any bills to the government.
Ten Pakistani terrorists had launched a dastardly attack on key locations in the city on the night of November 26, 2008. The terrorists killed 166 people and injured over 600 others.
The places that were attacked included the CST railway station in south Mumbai, the Taj Hotel and the Trident Hotel in south Mumbai, Cafe Leopold and Chabad House at Colaba in south Mumbai.
The attacks lasted three days. While nine of the terrorists were killed during the siege, Kasab was caught alive by the Mumbai police at Marine Drive in south Mumbai.