26/11: FBI likely to depose via video conference

With agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation expected to be named as witnesses in the 26/11 terror attack...

Written by Sagnik Chowdhury | Mumbai | Published:February 22, 2009 12:30 am

With agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) expected to be named as witnesses in the 26/11 terror attack case,top police officials here revealed that there is a strong possibility that the American investigators would not physically depose before the special court set up for the case,but would give their statements via a satellite link-up with the US.

Sources said that once the Mumbai Police Crime Branch team returned from the US with “documentary and oral evidence” from various sources there through a Letter Rogatory,it was almost certain that FBI agents and other sources in the US would be named as witnesses and asked to depose during the 26/11 trial.

“The Crime Branch team returned with certain documentary and oral evidence from sources in the US,and now these people will be required to depose in the case. We are keenly looking at the possibility of having them do so through a video-conferencing facility that might be set up at the special court. However,this will only be possible if the court allows it,” said a police officer,who did not wish to be named.

Besides FBI officials who have provided evidence pertaining to the telephonic conversations between the terrorists and their handlers in Pakistan,officials of the New Jersey-based Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) service Callphonex used by the terrorists also provided documentary evidence to the Crime Branch team. Besides this,the Crime Branch also secured from the US the purchase and sale details of the Yamaha outboard motor used in the attacks.

Under the Criminal Procedure Code,there are three ways in which a witness might depose during a trial — by being physically present before the court,via video conferencing or by “appointing commission”. The last option is allowed only if a witness is unable to appear at all due to unavoidable reasons. In such cases,the court appoints an independent lawyer or “commission” who goes to the witness along with the public prosecutor,defense advocate and accused,and records his or her deposition.

Incidentally,a video conferencing link between Mumbai and New York was used to record evidence in an unprecedented case on November 22,2003. A New York-based doctor — Dr Ernest Greenberg of Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital — whose evidence was vital to a medical negligence case filed against a well known cancer specialist associated with Bombay Hospital,deposed via satellite link-up and his evidence was digitally recorded at a VSNL studio in Mumbai.

In this case,while the trial court had allowed video-conferencing of the US-based doctor,the Bombay High Court had disallowed it.

The matter then went to the Supreme Court,which struck down the High Court order.

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