`Indian court can hear suit of UK victim of Mumbai attacks`

An Indian expert legal witness today told the UK High Court that the compensation claim of a British man paralysed during the 2008 Mumbai attacks could be heard expeditiously by Indian courts.

London: An Indian expert legal witness today told the UK High Court that the compensation claim of a British man paralysed during the 2008 Mumbai attacks could be heard expeditiously by Indian courts.

Rohit Kapadia, a senior advocate of Bombay High Court, appeared in court on behalf of the owners of Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, who have been sued for compensation by Briton Will Pike.

The Indian Hotels Company Limited`s legal team - led by Paula Jefferson, a partner in the London-based law firm of Dac Beachcroft - is challenging Pike`s assertion that his case should be heard by the High Court in London, where he lives, to ensure a speedy conclusion.

"I would expect a judge to pass an expedition order in a case of such importance," said Kapadia, giving evidence before Justice Stewart on the second day of a three-day hearing at Court 64 of the Royal Courts of Justice.

Asked by the court to give an estimate of timeframes in such cases that come before the Bombay High Court, he said: "They should be concluded within four years and if an application for expedition is approved, it would be much shorter than four years."

Pike`s legal team have argued the case must be heard in London, where the Tata Group`s hospitality arm has a significant presence, including The Crowne Plaza London?St James hotel near Buckingham Palace in central London.

"It is simply not right that this billion-dollar corporate giant wants to drag our wheelchair-bound client back to India and take him through a legal system where inequality of arms would be significant," said Russel Levy, a partner at Leigh Day, which is representing the 33-year-old freelance filmmaker.

The case over where the trial should be held is likely to conclude on Wednesday, with a reserved judgement expected at a later date.

Pike is suing the owners of the iconic Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, the scene of a three-day terrorist siege in November 2008, over alleged negligence in providing security despite several warnings that an attack was imminent.

He and his then girlfriend Kelly Doyle had checked into the hotel on November 26, 2008, the day the siege began.

Pike and Doyle who is bringing proceedings through the same law firm claim they saw limited security checks with only one metal detector and cursory screening of guests.

They allege that they were not been given proper advice about emergency procedures and evacuation routes and, when they heard doors being kicked in and shots fired, had to break a window with furniture from their smoke-filled room and try to reach the ground using bedding and curtains knotted together.

"He did not choose to bring this claim lightly but only after long, anxious and careful thought," Pike`s counsel Philip Havers told the court yesterday.

Pike was paralysed as a result of falling nearly 50 feet and breaking his back, pelvis and leg. He also fractured his left wrist and right elbow in a bid to escape Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists as they rampaged through the hotel, shooting people and setting off explosions.

At least 166 people were killed and over 300 injured in the attacks.

Pike`s legal team has pointed to a CNN Asia interview in which then Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata confirmed that the hotel had been warned of an attack and that security measures previously in place had been relaxed at the time the attack took place.

"I do not see why the British taxpayer should have to pay for the life-long care I need rather than those who I believe did not do enough to guarantee my safety and the safety of all those caught up in this atrocity," said Pike.

Justice Stewart was offered DVDs of the horrific siege, which may not be required as the judge said he had a fair "recollection from when it happened".

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