26/11: Pakistani team to visit Mumbai to speak to forensic experts

Updated: Oct 28, 2019, 07:25 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

Exclusive: City doctors told to expect visit from Pakistani team in connection with Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi's case in an Islamabad court; Delhi's final nod awaited

The Taj Mahal hotel was one of the terror targets on November 26, 2008. In Pakistan, the trial in the 26/11 Mumbai terror strike has been meandering for 11 years in an Anti-Terrorism Court in Islamabad. File pic
The Taj Mahal hotel was one of the terror targets on November 26, 2008. In Pakistan, the trial in the 26/11 Mumbai terror strike has been meandering for 11 years in an Anti-Terrorism Court in Islamabad. File pic

If the Centre permits, a high-level committee from Islamabad, Pakistan, will soon visit Mumbai to speak to forensic experts who conducted autopsies on victims and perpetrators of the November 26, 2008, attack.

Highly placed government officials told mid-day that the Pakistani committee is associated with the stalled trial in that country of the 26/11 terrors strike, which has been meandering for eleven years in an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Islamabad. The court is hearing the case against seven members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, including mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, who has been underground since he was released on bail from the Adiala Jail on April 10, 2015.

Pakistan has been sending contrasting signals when it comes to 26/11 attacks. In April, Pakistan's top Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) moved the Islamabad High Court against Lakhvi's bail, saying it had enough evidence to show Lakhvi's involvement in the 26/11 attacks. On September 26, Pakistan won a United Nations nod to disburse monthly expenses for 26/11 mastermind and designated global terrorist Hafiz Saeed, which India slammed.

Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi
Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi

Seeking permission

The high-level committee, whose exact composition and identity are not known, have now approached New Delhi through the Pakistan High Commission, seeking permission to visit Mumbai and carry out their proceedings by calling in forensic surgeons who conducted the autopsies of the 26/11 terrorists and victims at JJ Hospital.

Interestingly, these are not the same experts who were approached by a Judicial Committee from Pakistan during their last visit in 2013. The Judicial Committee had then questioned Senior Inspector Ramesh Mahale (now retired) of Crime Branch Unit 1, who had investigated the 26/11 case, Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate RV Sawant Waghule, and forensic surgeons Dr Shailesh Mohite of BYL Nair Hospital and Dr Ganesh Niturkar of Grant Medical College. Dr Mohite had performed the autopsy of terrorist Abu Ismail and 20 victims.

"This time, forensic surgeons attached to various state government and civic hospitals, who had conducted the autopsies on terrorists and victims are likely to be approached by the committee," said a highly-placed official privy to the matter. "Mumbai Crime Branch has requested the forensic surgeons to be available at short notice with all postmortem details including documents and reports. However, all this will happen only if New Delhi permits the visit."

Forensic experts

In the aftermath of 26/11, forensic experts from across the city were summoned to JJ postmortem centre and all the autopsies were conducted in that one centre. mid-day has learned that Dr Rajesh Dhere (Sion Hospital), Dr Ganesh Chauhan, Dr Sunil Jawale (both from Grant Medical College), Dr Shivaji Kachre (who in 2008 headed all city post-mortem centres under the police surgeon) and Dr Hirendra Balsara (retired forensic professor, KEM Hospital) were among those contacted by the city police. All of them refused comment for this report. Sources in colleges and post-mortem centres, however, confirmed the development.

Media reports

According to media reports, ATC-Islamabad had last July ordered the FIA director general to present all the 24 Indian witnesses in court to record their statements, besides ordering that the boat used by Ajmal Kasab and other terrorists be brought to Pakistan for examination. The source said the time and place of the proposed meeting has not been decided. When mid-day contacted the Crime Branch, a senior officer, on condition of anonymity, said: "Mumbai police or the Crime Branch has no role. Only officials of the home ministry or the foreign ministry will be able to speak on this."

A senior state government official said, "Only if New Delhi grants permission to the Pakistan High Commission, the request will be executed." Advocate Ujwal Nikam, special public prosecutor in 26/11 case, said, "I am not aware about any such development." He added: "Last time, the during the Judicial Committee's visit, four witnesses were examined and produced evidence. But the ATC-Islamabad did not accept the evidence as defence lawyers objected, saying they will be unable to cross-examine the witnesses. Then, we even allowed the defence lawyers to visit Mumbai and cross-examine the four witnesses, including officer Mahale."

166
No. of people who were killed in the Nov 26, 2008 attacks in the city

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