While Ajmal Kasab, the lone 26/11 terrorist who was nabbed alive and tried, was executed about two years ago, his ghost still haunts the lawyers who defended him.
Abbas Kazmi, who first took up Kasab’s case, had not reckoned the backlash he would face. “I was representing some of the accused in the 1993 blasts case. On the first day of the 26/11 trial, out of curiosity, I was present in the special court and witnessed the first defence lawyer being removed,” Kazmi recalls.
Kazmi says his clientele shrunk after he decided to defend Kasab. “It had a negative effect. Clients were discouraged to hire me.”
“Even my relatives questioned my decision. My own community turned against me. I was a trustee of Islam Gymkhana, but rivals conspired and I was removed. The Kasab case only provided them with an alibi,” he says. Kazmi, however, treasures his role in the case as “life-changing” and has nothing to “repent or regret”.
After Kazmi left the case, K P Pawar, another lawyer on Kasab’s defence panel, was asked to take the case forward. It meant Pawar could not take up any other case for over a year. “The police’s massive chargesheet ran into over 14,500 pages. There were over 1,800 witnesses and as a result, I could not take up any other case, which was a loss,” he says.
Pawar also had to undergo unpleasant encounters. “Once, while shaking hands with a politician, I told him I was handling Kasab’s case. He just pushed my hand away,” says Pawar.
Ameen Solkar, who argued Kasab’s appeal against the death term in the High Court, says the case was “mentally draining”. “If not called upon to be the defence lawyer, I would not have taken up the case because emotions ran high and there were social ramifications,” he says.
Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, the busy criminal lawyer who nailed Kasab during the trial, says he did not take any other case in the three years he spent the case. “The whole country’s attention was on me as people wanted the trial to be conducted expeditiously,” he says.