New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks convict and Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab’s plea challenging the death sentence awarded to him for killing 166 innocents.
Confirming the death sentence awarded by the trial court, the apex court bench of Justice Aftab Alam and Justice CK Prasad accepted the prosecution’s stand that it is a rarest of rare case as Kasab is guilty of waging a war against the nation, hence he deserves no mercy.
“Waging war against the country is the primary and
foremost offence committed by Kasab,” the bench said, adding, “We are constrained and left with no option but to uphold the death sentence of Kasab”.
The court rejected Kasab’s contention that he was denied a fair trial as he was not provided legal assistance as mandated under in terms of Article 22 (1) of the Indian constitution and that he deserves leniency as he was ‘not part of the larger conspiracy’.
The apex court’s verdict would be sent to the trial court that awarded the death sentence, which will then announce the date on which Kasab will be hanged till death.
"It is at least the very rarest of rare to come before this court since the birth of the Republic. Therefore, it should also attract the rarest of rare punishment," the bench said.
The court dismissed Kasab's contention that the trial was not fair because the government did not provide him advocate during the time when he was arrested and put of trial.
Refusing to show any mercy to Kasab on account of his young age and illiteracy, the apex court observed, "the offences committed by the appellant show a degree of cruelty, brutality and depravity as in very few other cases.
"It is already seen above that the appellant never showed any repentance or remorse, which is the first sign of any possibility of reform and rehabilitation."
"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," Justice Prasad writing a separate but concurring judgement said.
The apex court said the only mitigating factor is Kasab's
young age, but that is completely offset by the absence of any remorse on his part, and the resultant finding that in his case there is no possibility of any reformation or rehabilitation.
"As attack was as deep and large as it was vicious. The preparation and training for the execution was as thorough as the execution was ruthless.
The court said this case has shocked the collective conscience of the Indian people as few other cases have.
"The saddest and the most disturbing part of the case is that the appellant never showed any remorse for the terrible things he did. As seen earlier, in the initial weeks after his arrest he continued to regard himself as a 'watan parast', a patriotic Pakistani who considered himself to be at war with this country, who had no use for an Indian lawyer but needed a Pakistani lawyer to defend him in the court," the bench said.
The bench noted that in his confessional statement before the magistrate on February 17, 2009, Kasab did not display any any sense of guilt or sorrow or grief, but to present himself as a hero.
"He told the magistrate that he had absolutely no regret for whatever he had done and he wanted to make the confession to set an example for others to become Fidayeen like him and follow him in his deeds. Even in the course of the trial he was never repentant and did not show any sign of contrition," the bench noted.
The apex court said as long as the death penalty remains on the statute book as punishment for certain offences, including 'waging war' and murder, it logically follows that there must be some cases, howsoever rare or one in a million, that would call for inflicting that penalty.
"That being the position we fail to see what case would attract the death penalty, if not the case of the appellant," the bench said.
The apex court noted that the primary and foremost
offence that Kasab and his co-conspirators committed was the offence of waging war against the Government of India.
"It does not matter that the target assigned to the appellant and Abu Ismail was CST Station where they killed a large number of people.
"What matters is that the attack was aimed at India and Indians. It was by foreign nationals. People were killed for no other reason than they were Indians; in case of foreigners, they were killed because their killing on Indian soil would embarrass India.
"The conspiracy, in furtherance of which the attack was made, was, inter alia, to hit at India, to hit at its financial centre; to try to give rise to communal tensions and create internal strife and insurgency, to demand that India should withdraw from Kashmir, and to dictate its relations with other countries," the bench said.
It was in furtherance of those objectives that the attack was made, causing the loss of a large number of people and injury to an even greater number of people.
"Nothing could have been more in like manner and by like means as a foreign enemy would do," the bench said.
Upholding the sentence, the court said,"We can even say that every single reason that this court might have assigned for confirming a death sentence in the past is to be found in this case in a more magnified way.
"The route from Karachi to Mumbai, the landing site at Mumbai, the different targets at Mumbai were all predetermined," it noted.
Senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, who defended Kasab in the apex court as amicus curiae, said he "bows down" to the apex court's verdict.
"I bow to the verdict of the court.... I took it (the opportunity to defend Kasab) as a sacred duty and I performed it to the best of my ability," said Ramachandran, who was asked to assist the court.
Former Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam, who had appeared for the Maharashtra government, also welcomed the verdict saying it is "a victory of justice and the Constitution of the country."
25-year-old Kasab was sentenced to death by a Mumbai anti-terror court on May 6, 2010; the order was later upheld by the Bombay High Court on October 10, 2011.
The High Court had upheld Kasab's conviction on 19 counts under the IPC, Arms Act, Explosives Act, Explosive Substances Act, the Foreigners Act, the Passport Act and the Railway Act.
Kasab, along with nine other Pakistani terrorists, had landed at Budhwar Park in south Mumbai on November 26, 2008, night after travelling from Karachi by sea and had gone on a shooting spree at various city landmarks, leaving 166 people dead and many more wounded.
While Kasab was captured, the other terrorists in the group were killed by police in counter-terror operations.
Kasab has been lodged in a high-security cell costing Rs 5 crore inside Arthur Road prison in Mumbai. He is provided security cover by the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) – costing the state government Rs 19 crores.
With PTI inputs
First Published: Wednesday, August 29, 2012, 08:20