The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Defenders divided on verdict
- Review petitions in the pipeline

New Delhi, Aug. 4: The country’s biggest terrorism case had some of its best lawyers ' Ram Jethmalani and Shanti Bhushan among them ' fighting for the accused.

While some like Jethmalani are happy, others are not sure justice has been done.

Anand Padmanabhan, who assisted Sushil Kumar in defending Mohammad Afzal, whose death sentence has been upheld, said he would file a review petition.

“We feel that his case was not presented properly in the trial court and high court. He was denied a lawyer in the trial court and had to cross-examine his witnesses'.

“The evidence is circumstantial. My client voluntarily admitted in the trial court to helping the terrorists but he did so without knowing what they were doing,” said Padmanabhan, who was the prosecution lawyer against Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa in corruption cases in which she was convicted.

Sushil Kumar, whom he assisted, had fought for slain trade union leader Shankar Guha Neogi.

Shanti Bhushan, the former law minister who famously fought for Emergency victims, was expecting an acquittal for his client, Shaukat Hussain Guru, a cousin of Afzal’s whose death sentence was commuted to 10 years in jail.

“The Supreme Court has acquitted him of all charges under Pota (the anti-terror law). But they have convicted him under Section 123 of the IPC for concealing something about the act of waging war. Now this is a charge on which no arguments were advanced from either side, in high court or Supreme Court. They should have heard me and asked me about my views on this,” he said.

“We may file a review petition for Shaukat if it is allowed. In this case, there is no action being taken against the prosecution agency which had forged various documents and perjured evidence and this was proved conclusively in court,” Bhushan added.

Nitya Ramakrishnan, who assisted Bhushan and also fought for Shaukat’s wife Afsan, whose acquittal was upheld, however, saw the verdict as a victory.

Nandita Haksar, who assisted Jethmalani in defending Delhi University professor S.A.R. Geelani, whose acquittal was also upheld, did not.

“I really can’t rejoice for several reasons. First, I don’t know whether Geelani has got justice'. Afzal has been sentenced to death but on what basis' There was evidence that the special task force appointed by the Jammu and Kashmir government had tortured him. They hung him upside down and put petrol down his anus'.

“The remarks on Geelani were totally unfair'. These remarks can stigmatise him further,” she said.

While upholding Geelani’s acquittal, the court had said his behaviour was suspicious.

But Jetmalani, who had defended the accused in the Indira Gandhi assassination case, said: “The fact remains that Geelani has been acquitted. Suspicion can be against anyone in the world'. Suspicion should not have been expressed but sometimes courts do it'. Yes. It is a victory.”

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