Islamabad:  The prosecution and defence proceeding in Mumbai blasts case to declare Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving attacker involved in the 2008 attack, and terror suspect Fahim Ansari as "proclaimed offenders" or fugitives, has taken a dramatic turn as an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan on Saturday put off its ruling on the plea till March 26.

The judgment was reserved by Rana Nisar Ahmed of the Rawalpindi-based anti-terrorism court after hearing arguments by prosecution and defence lawyers. The court has been conducting the trial of seven Pakistani suspects charged with involvement in the Mumbai attacks.

During the hearing at Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, prosecution lawyers asked the judge to declare Kasab and Ansari as fugitives as their presence in the court is required to proceed with the trial of the seven suspects.

Lawyers defending the seven suspects, including Lashker-e-Taiba Commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, opposed the prosecution's application on the ground that a similar plea had earlier been rejected by the same court.

In defence, Khwaja Sultan, the lawyer for Lakhvi, argued that Kasab had already been convicted and sentenced to death by a court in India and he could not be tried again in Pakistan.
The prosecution demanded to separate the trial of Kasab and Ansari from that of the seven suspects and to summon 22 witnesses from India.

In response, the defence lawyers argued that the prosecution wanted to produce witnesses like Kasab and Ansari to whom it had no access and this had resulted in "inordinate and indefinite" delays in the proceedings in the case.

Under Section 403 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and Article 13 of the Constitution, an application was filed, in which it sought the start of trial proceedings and recording of evidence against the accused.

According to these sections no person can be prosecuted or punished for the same offence more than once.

(Agencies)