A court trying the sole-surviving Pakistani gunman from the November terrorist attacks in Mumbai has dismissed his defence lawyer for a conflict of interest, threatening to further delay what has been billed as India’s trial of the century.
The judge presiding over the case removed lawyer Anjali Waghmare for “professional misconduct” after finding she was also representing Vardhan Kar, who was allegedly wounded by Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab and an accomplice during the attacks.
“The interest of the victim and the accused clash with each other ... Her [Waghmare’s] appointment stands revoked immediately,” said the judge, ML Tahaliyani.
The dismissal promises to further complicate the trial of Mr Kasab, one of 10 terrorists who allegedly killed 163 people and besieged Mumbai for nearly three days.
The court will now have to seek a new lawyer for Mr Kasab – not an easy task given that all previous candidates including Ms Waghmare have been harassed by right-wing Hindu nationalist groups, who argue that he should simply be put to death.
Mr Kasab yesterday requested that a lawyer be sent from Pakistan to defend him.
“Pakistan can assist you to find you a lawyer but he would have to be from here,” judge Tahaliyani said in response to Mr Kasab’s request, adding that the Indian government would communicate to Pakistan his appeal for legal aid.
Security forces have reinforced the colonial-era jail in which a special court has been set up to try Mr Kasab to protect it against terror attacks from the ground or from the air.
Earlier in the day, Mr Kasab walked from his cell in the jail to the court though a new 6m-long bomb-and-chemical warfare proof corridor.
At least 1,000 security personnel wearing flak jackets, combat fatigues and carrying rifles, were deployed inside and outside the jail premises.
Mr Kasab appeared in the court wearing a grey T-shirt and blue Adidas pants and sporting a scruffy beard.
He chatted with two Indians, Fahim Ansari and Sabaudin Ahmed, who are also being accused of being members of the banned Pakistan-based terrorist organisation, Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Prosecutors have charged Mr Kasab with waging war against India, a crime punishable by death.
Mr Kar is claiming compensation for injuries sustained at Cama Hospital, where Mr Kasab and an accomplice allegedly ranged after attacking the neighbouring Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the city’s main railway station.
Ms Waghmare the told FT that she had met Mr Kar only once but had not signed up to represent him.
People familiar with his case say the loss of Ms Waghmare will delay the trial by a fortnight but many believe it could be longer.