Mumbai: Justice was finally delivered to the 166 people who lost their lives in the 26/11 carnage. Seventeen months after the trial began, lone surviving Pakistani gunman Ajmal Kasab was on Thursday sentenced to death for complicity in the most audacious terrorist attack ever on India.
Special Judge ML Tahaliyani, who conducted the trial of Kasab for nearly a year in the high security central prison at Arthur Road in Central Mumbai, read out the death sentence at 1.28 pm to a packed court room, in Kasab’s presence.
"Kasab shall be hanged by the neck until death," Special
Tahaliyani said while reading out the sentence
awarded to the 22-year-old lone surviving terrorist in the
November 26, 2008 carnage in which 166 people were killed.
"The possibility of Kasab reforming is completely ruled
out by the barbaric manner in which he had behaved. When the
planned attack was delayed he was very anxious to attack India
....there are too many aggravating circumstances and the
court has no option but to impose death penalty," he said.
Death sentence on four counts
Bringing the curtains down on one of the fastest trials
in a terror case three days after finding him guilty, the
judge sent Kasab to the gallows on five counts--mass murder,
abetment of murder, waging war against the Indian state,
conspiracy and terror, offences covered under Indian Penal
Code and Unlawful Prevention of Activities Act.
"To be hanged by the neck till death," the judge said after each of the four counts for which he sent Kasab to the gallows.
Tahaliyani said the common man would lose faith in the court if Kasab was given life. "The death sentence is required," he said as he wound up his statement and added that Kasab did not have the right to live.
Kasab was also handed down life sentence on an equal
number of counts--attempt to murder, conspiracy to wage war,
collecting arms with an intention to wage war against the
nation, kidnapping in order to commit murder and causing
explosion to endanger life or property.
Kasab, the only gunman amongst the 10 Pakistanis to be captured alive, was also awarded life-term on five other charges of the total 86 charges, said Joint Police Commissioner Himanshu Roy after stepping out of the courtroom in the Arthur Road Central Jail.
The death sentence will be subject to confirmation by the
Bombay High Court. If ratified, Kasab, a foot soldier of
Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), can also appeal against it in the
Supreme Court to be followed by a mercy petition to the
President if it fails.
Kasab breaks down
The 22-year-old from Faridkot in Pakistan, who along with nine other terrorists had let loose death and destruction on Mumbai, broke down and was seen sobbing when the judge read out the sentence against him. He asked for a glass of water during the pronouncement.
"Pakistan ke LeT se milkar saazish ki uske liye maut,
khoon kiya uske liye maut aur bharat sarkar ke khilaf jung
cheda uske liye maut...aapko marte dam tak sazayen maut di
jayegi (For conspiring with Pak-based LeT, for committing
murders and for waging war against India, you will be hanged
till death)," the judge told Kasab, who just nodded.
Soon after pronouncing the judgement, when Kasab was asked if he had anything to say, he folded his hands and stood quietly - indicating as if the ruling was acceptable to him.
The judge said during the proceedings that Kasab could go out for some time if he wanted water. When Kasab returned to the court, he had tears in his eyes.
The judge also asked the media not to leave the room.
Refusing to buy the defence plea seeking leniency for the “young” terrorist on the grounds that ‘Kasab being a human, should be given a chance to reform’, the judge said, “In the court`s opinion, Kasab has no chance to reform. Keeping such a terrorist alive will be a lingering danger to the society and the Indian government.”
The judge cited the example of the Kandahar hijack case in which arrested terrorists were swapped for the passengers held hostage. "If Kasab is kept alive, this situation may occur again," he said.
The judge said Kasab had joined terror outfit LeT voluntarily and offered himself to be a "mujahideen"(holy warrior).
Kasab was also awarded life imprisonment on five other counts including attempt to murder, criminal conspiracy and under the Explosive Substances Act.
On May 03, in his 1522-page verdict, Judge Tahaliyani had held Kasab guilty of almost all 86 charges he was arraigned for, including that of mass murder and waging war against the nation.
Flashing the victory sign, Public Prosecutor Ujwal
Nikam, who expressed happiness over the capital punishment,
described Kasab`s sobs as "crocodile tears."
"I am happy because my effort to bring relief to the
families of those killed by terrorists has met with success,"
said Nikam for whom Kasab was the 38th person to be given
death penalty in a case handled by him.
Nikam had pressed for death penalty, he said, "Such a monster should be given death penalty...He is an agent of devil himself. If Kasab is given lesser punishment, India will become a soft target for every self-styled terror group."
Judgment open to appeal
The verdict will be now referred to the Bombay High Court for confirmation. Kasab also has a right to appeal against the verdict in the High Court.
Kasab`s laywer K P Pawar said he would not criticise the
judgment but his client has a right to appeal. The verdict
evoked instant reaction with people bursting crackers outside
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus(CST) where Kasab was caught on
camera killing people.
The government, on its part, may also consider filing an appeal in the High Court against the order of the trial court acquitting two Indians, Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed, who were also tried along with Kasab for participating in conspiracy by conducting recee of 26/11 targets and giving hand drawn maps of these places to LeT which executed the attacks.
The High Court may hear all these matters simultaneously. If the ruling goes against Kasab, he will still have a right to move the Supreme Court. If he is not satisfied with the apex court’s decision, Kasab can file a mercy petition before the President.
All these procedures would take quite some time and Kasab would have to wait patiently for the verdicts in the higher courts.
Since his arrest on November 27, 2008, Kasab has been kept in solitary confinement in central prison in a specially made bomb and bullet-proof cell.
So far, none of his relatives from Pakistan have tried to contact Kasab or the Indian authorities. He has also not expressed his desire to meet his relatives.