Buoyed by a Pakistan court's order -- that stated that the trial of terrorist Ajmal Amir Kasab cannot be separated from that of the seven Pakistani suspects arrested for planning the terror siege on Mumbai -- Lashkar-e-Tayiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi plans to file a petition in the Supreme Court seeking an acquittal.
"We will approach the Supreme Court in a few days, following the Lahore high court's order, and we are quite hopeful that it will change the entire complexion of the case in the anti-terrorism court," said Lakhvi's lawyer Khwaja Sultan.
A petition seeking Lakhvi's acquittal is likely to be filed in the apex court on Monday, he said. The Lahore high court, in its order issued on March 9 in response to a petition filed by Lakhvi, said, "Procedure adopted by (the anti-terrorism) court while applying section 540-A (2) Criminal Procedure Code for separation of trial of alleged accused Ajmal Kasab and Faheem Arshad Ansari is totally illegal".
"Resultantly, to that extent order dated 25.11.2009 passed by the trial court is declared without lawful authority and is hereby set aside," the court ruled.
The high court's 14-page order also said that Lakhvi could file an "application under section 265 K of CrPC (for acquittal) at proper stage after recording of necessary/relevant evidence".
Lakhvi can also raise "any objections about admissibility of any document/evidence at relevant stage of the trial before the trial court," the order said.
The trial of Lakhvi and six other suspects, including LeT communications expert Zarar Shah, is being conducted by the anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi.
They have been charged with facilitating and helping execute the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that killed 166 people. Legal experts said Lakhvi's move to approach the apex court could be a ploy to delay proceedings in the anti-terrorism court, which have entered a crucial stage, as the recording of testimonies of witnesses has begun.
The government's special public prosecutor has already accused defence lawyers of creating 'unnecessary hindrances' by filing petitions in different courts. Lakhvi's counsel Sultan further said that if a joint trial of Kasab and the Pakistani suspects is conducted, then Kasab's statement to Indian authorities will 'technically' have no value.
"Similarly, Kasab is not willfully absconding and therefore there are very legal grounds that his name should be dropped from the case," said a confident-looking Sultan.
The Lahore high court's order also caused embarrassment for the anti-terrorism court when it observed that "the special judge (of the trial court) committed a clear error of law in directing the separation of their cases on the sole ground that they (Kasab and Ansari) could not be served (notices) The correct course to adopt for the judge was to enforce the attendance of the respondents..."
Sultan further contended that Kasab was being tried by a court in Mumbai and allegedly made a judicial confession that was recorded under Section 164 of India's Criminal Procedure Code before a magistrate in Mumbai.
"There is no evidence on record against (Lakhvi) to connect him with any of the alleged offences that Kasab has committed. Kasab not been shown as an accused in Pakistan and therefore his statement cannot be used against (Lakhvi) as it goes against Article 43 of the Qanun-e-Shahadat Order of 1984," Sultan said.