The Maharashtra government on Thursday faced some searching questions from the Supreme Court during hearing of its appeal against acquittal of two accused of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, which claimed 166 lives.
A bench of justices Aftab Alam and C K Prasad, which reserved its judgement on the government's appeal against acquittals of accused Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed, asked during the hearing as to why the duo would be using hand-drawn maps in this time and age of computers.
"There would be number of printed maps around (of Mumbai).
We can pick up a printed map from a tourist guide also. Why would someone use such a (hand-drawn) map?," the bench pointedly asked former Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium, who appeared for the state government.
The apex court had on Wednesday reserved its judgement on the appeal by sole surviving Pakistani terrorist Mohd Ajmal Kasab, involved in 26/11 attack, against his death sentence.
The prosecution against Faheem and Sabauddin was that the duo provided the logistic support to the terrorists and the hand-drawn maps of Mumbai were seized from them during their arrest.
On searching posers by the bench, Subramanium told it that Fahim had admitted that the maps were drawn by him in his own handwriting but he had claimed during trial that they were drawn under duress during police interrogation.
"I do not see anything in the map. It doesn't show what is south, what is north. In these days of computer it is like a man copying from a book by hand," said Justice Alam.
Subramanium countered the reasoning, insisting that despite advancement of technology people even today use scribbling or memo pads for various reasons.
"The maps may look puerile for some person, but for him (accused) it was a sense of direction from one place to another," he argued.
During the hearing, the apex court bench also wondered if a Pakistani national was required to produce a passport for entry to Nepal.
"Does a person from Pakistan need a passport to visit Nepal? Indians do not need it," the bench asked Subramanium.
The bench made the query after the counsel submitted that Fahim, originally a resident of Goregaon in Mumbai had visited Nepal under a Pakistani passport in October as per the visa endorsement discovered in his travel documents.
Subramanium said he will have to check the official position in this regard.
Maharashtra government had approached the Supreme Court challenging the Bombay high court ruling which had upheld the the designated anti-terror court judgement acquitting Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed.
The Bombay high court on February 21 last year had acquitted Faheem and Sabauddin, accused of being accomplices and aiding and abetting terror outfit LeT in conducting the dastardly attacks.
The duo were acquitted by the trial court due to lack of evidence. They had been tried with lone surviving Pakistani gunman Ajmal Kasab, who was convicted and awarded death penalty.
According to the police, Faheem and Sabauddin had prepared maps of several vital locations of Mumbai and handed it over to LeT members who had planned the attack.
The Mumbai police's contention was that the terrorists intruded into the country's financial capital with the help of hand-written maps drawn by Ansari.