Ujjwal Nikam, the special public prosecutor who argued on behalf of the state during the 26/11 Mumbai attack trial, disclosed Friday that executed terrorist Ajmal Kasab had “never demanded nor was he given” mutton biryani while in custody. He said he “made up the statement… just to divert people’s attention”.
That one remark of Nikam had led to public demands for a quick trial. It became a common refrain on social media and elsewhere — “why feed them biryani” became a catchphrase whether it was a discussion on Afzal Guru or the Coast Guard’s sinking of a Pakistani boat off the coast of Gujarat.
Nikam, who made this admission at a counter-terrorism conference in Jaipur Friday, told The Indian Express later: “Media has to play a responsible role and has to be vigilant. They hyped his tears and portrayed him as a scapegoat, a young boy, which was not right.
Following the media hype, I saw a tilt in people’s perspectives. It was then that I made up the statement and said he (Kasab) had demanded mutton biryani just to divert the people’s attention.”
“There was a hullabaloo after the media reported that Kasab had turned emotional and was crying during the trial. There should not be a media trial as Kasab was not repenting, he was only pretending,” Nikam said.
Senior lawyer Rohini Salian, who was public prosecutor in prominent trials including the Ghatkopar and Mulund bomb blasts case, said such a comment should never have been made by an officer of the court.
“We are representatives of the public as well as the society. As an officer of the court, I have no right to come to a conclusion. It is my duty to present the truth to the court and then leave it to the court to take a decision. As prosecutors, we can’t be biased. We must present the case independently and without hatred for anyone,” Salian said, adding that prosecutors must not make comments for publicity.
Abbas Kazmi, the lawyer who represented Kasab during the 26/11 trial, slammed Nikam, saying he had insisted all along that Kasab never asked for biryani.
“Nikam also claimed that Kasab had demanded expensive perfume. That too wasn’t the case. Kasab told me the toilet in his cell had a broken flush and he, therefore, requested some ittar.” Kazmi said Nikam had “no right to instigate the common man… it was unethical, immoral and was meant to misguide the court”.