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The trial of a Pakistani terrorist is yet to make headway over a year after he was nabbed in Jammu and Kashmir. The reason: the defence lawyer wants to go slow as he is only being paid Rs 1,500 for the case.
While the government wants the trial to be fast-tracked for quick conviction, the defence lawyer, Satinder Gupta, has argued that he cannot devote so much time to the case.
LeT terrorist Mohammed Naved was arrested on August 5, 2015, after he, along with another Pakistani terrorist Noman, attacked a BSF convoy in Udhampur, killing two personnel. While Noman was killed in retaliatory fire, Naved was nabbed by village defence committee members.
The NIA investigated the case and filed a chargesheet. The court provided Gupta, who is from the state legal services authority, as Naved’s lawyer, after the Jammu bar refused to defend him.
“The remuneration is very low. It is either Rs 1,500 or Rs 3,000, I haven’t even bothered to check… I thought I would fight this case for the country and our criminal justice system,” Gupta told The Sunday Express.
He, however, said he could not give the court as much time as it demanded every month. “The court wanted to have three hearings (every fortnight). I refused. I said if I give four-five days to the case every month, and I need another four-five days for preparation, then you have taken 10 days of work from me in a month. I said in that case I would have to relieve myself from the case. The court understood and was kind enough to accommodate both my concerns as well as that of the NIA,” he said.
“It’s a cumbersome case. I have my full team dedicated to it. We have already incurred expenses to the tune of thousands of rupees. We have the trial in Urdu here, so we have to first translate everything into Hindi and English… I have to honour the court’s call to me for this case. So I will fight to the best of my ability,” said Gupta.
Sources said more than 10 hearings in the case have already taken place and four witnesses have been examined.
The NIA, however, is not happy. “This is a big case for the agency and we would like it to be fast-tracked. We are sure of the conviction as the evidence is strong and will also prove Pakistan’s complicity. But the lawyer’s remuneration is so poor that he is unable to give so much time to the case every month. He is being paid Rs 1,500 for the whole case. We understand his concern,” said a senior NIA officer.
He said the agency is planning to write to the Jammu and Kashmir chief secretary to increase the remuneration of the lawyer so that the case can be fast-tracked.
Sources said NIA even offered to pay the lawyer from its own coffers, but found that this was not possible since the state has to pay for the legal aid provided to a defendant by a court.