New Delhi: The Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence for Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab. The top court rejected a plea by Kasab, the only terrorist caught alive during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks in 2008, to commute the death sentence handed to him by the Bombay High Court, to life imprisonment.
Confirming the death sentence, the top court observed that the primary and foremost offence that Kasab was charged with was waging war against India and "We are left with no option, but to uphold the sentence."
"I am more than certain that the planning and conspiracy to commit the crime were hatched in Pakistan, the perpetrators of crime were Pakistani trained at different centres in that country, and the devastation which took place at various places in the city of Mumbai, were executed by the appellant in furtherance thereof," said Justice CK Prasad, one of the Judges of the two Judge bench in his judgment.
The two Judge bench also rejected 25-year-old Kasab's contention that he was not given a free and fair trial in the case. The bench observed that the failure of the government to provide him with an advocate at the pre-trial stage did not vitiate trial court proceedings against him. It also held that the confessional statement given by Kasab, which he retracted during trial, was very much voluntary except for a very small portion.
Senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, who had been appointed amicus curiae by the Supreme Court to defend Kasab, said after the verdict, "I bow to the verdict of the court. As amicus curiae I was given full opportunity to say all that I could in his defence. Let us take pride in our judicial system which adheres to due process, whoever be the accused and whatever be the crime." (Pak should expedite 26/11 trial now: Ujjwal Nikam)
Mr Ramachandran had argued that Kasab had not been given a fair trial and also that Kasab was not a part of the larger conspiracy for waging war against the nation. On behalf of the Maharashtra government, Gopal Subramanium had argued that Kasab should be hanged as he was a part of the conspiracy to wage war against India and fuel communal tension. After the verdict he said, "As a prosecutor who argued this case, I can say this was done in a professional manner and in a dispassionate atmosphere. It is a complete victory of due process (of law). India must feel proud that in democracy, we give every accused an opportunity to present his case." (Kasab's death sentence upheld: Who said what)
The Supreme Court today also upheld the Bombay High Court's acquittal of alleged Indian conspirators Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks case. The two were let off by the Bombay High Court for want of corroborative evidence and the Maharashtra government had appealed against that order.
Welcoming the verdict against Kasab, Maharashtra Home Minister RR Patil said his government would ask the Centre to execute the Pakistani terrorist at the earliest. External Affairs Minister SM Krishna, meanwhile, hoped that Pakistan "will not fail to take note" of the court's judgement.
Kasab had moved the Supreme Court on February 14 this year against the High Court verdict of October 10 last year, which upheld a lower court order sentencing the 25-year-old terrorist to death. The lower court had pronounced its judgement on May 6, 2010, 18 months after he was captured.
Even as Kasab's trial has continued, the cost of keeping him alive has been a huge burden on the state exchequer. While the Government has spent over Rs. 5 crores on his high security cell at Mumbai's Arthur Road jail, his security, entrusted to the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), has cost the state over Rs. 19 crores.
166 people were killed in the 2008 Mumbai attacks when 10 Pakistani terrorists sailed from Karachi to Mumbai to show India a side of terror it had never dreamt possible. While Kasab was captured, all the other terrorists who had sailed with him and attacked Mumbai were killed during counter-terror operations.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
After this judgement, there are two more options available for Ajmal Kasab. Within the next 30 days, he can file a review petition in the Supreme Court that will be examined by the same bench. If this review petition is dismissed, he can file a curative petition, which will be examined by a different bench in the court.
If the curative petition is also dismissed, Kasab can appeal for clemency and file a mercy petition with the President of India.
After all legal remedies have been exhausted, the trial court will issue a death warrant.
(With PTI Inputs)