Anjali Waghmare: the plucky woman who will defend the terrorist

March 30th, 2009 - 7:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, March 30 (IANS) Anjali Waghmare, the court-appointed government lawyer who will defend Pakistani terrorist Mohammed Ajmal Amir alias Kasab, is grappling with the sudden celebrity status that befell her Monday afternoon.
She happened to be the only lawyer present when Special Judge M.L. Tahilyani offered the services of the Maharashtra Legal Aid Committee to Kasab, who had expressed inability to hire an advocate to represent him.

“Well, I was there so I expected to be selected,” Waghmare told IANS, downplaying the significance of her sensitive new assignment Monday afternoon.

Ironically, the same assignment could prove to be a double-edged sword for the 40-year-old wife of Mumbai police official Ramesh Waghmare.

For, during the trial, she will be expected to defend the actions of Kasab and his nine killed associates for annihilating some of the best police officers from Mumbai and the elite National Security Guards (NSG).

When asked about this, Waghmare instantly raised her guard. “I am going to be practical about this case. You wait and watch when the trial begins next week. I don’t want to say anything on the issue now, the people can judge my performance,” she declared.

To a query what inspired her to remain present in the Special Court Monday, Waghmare said: “I was feeling very disturbed and concerned that such an important trial is held up for so long only because the accused has nobody to defend him. This is the sole reason I offered my services on behalf of the Legal Aid Committee.”

She emphasised that she has not taken it up to achieve any ‘celebrity status’ or pecuniary benefits, but purely as a professional assignment.

When pointed out that Kasab has already expressed inability to afford a lawyer, Waghmare said she was not aware of the monetary compensation that she may get.

As for the case itself, she is raring for it, admitting that it is indeed “a major challenge in my legal career”.

“However, I have not yet got the copy of the charge sheet in the case. As soon as I get it, maybe in a day or so, I plan to read it fully - that’s the least I can do for the people of this city,” she smiled.

That would definitely be an enormous task - the charge sheet runs into a little over 11,000 pages. However, Waghmare is confident she will have all the facts and figures at her finger-tips by the time the trial begins.

That would definitely help, considering she would be pitted against one of the best lawyers in the country - Ujwal Nikam, who is the special public prosecutor appointed for the Nov 26-29, 2008, Mumbai terrorist attacks case.

Nikam shot to international fame when he successfully conducted another major terrorist attack case - pertaining to the March 12, 1993, Mumbai serial bombings.

Aware of the uphill task, Waghmare is quite relieved that the Special Court also appointed another co-lawyer in the case - K.P. Pawar.

“We shall work on this case jointly. I want to make it clear that I am not heading the team defending the accused,” she asserted.

Waghmare was born and educated in Pune at the Symbiosis Institute, and later studied for her Bachelor of Law degree from Univerity of Pune.

In the early 2000s, after marriage she shifted to Mumbai. Apart from pursuing her legal practice at the Bombay High Court and the sessions court, she also set up an organisation called Mahila Satkarma Seva Sangh for the welfare of wives of police personnel.

“That was disbanded some years ago. I am now fully into legal practice and am empanelled on the legal aid committees of the sessions court for the past nearly six years and the Bombay High Court for the past nearly two years,” she said.

Enquiries about her other family members were stonewalled with a smile. “I wonder why everybody is interested in my family. Please keep them out of this. This is my work and I will do it to the best of my abilities,” was the firm response.

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