While the Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the death sentence awarded to lone surviving terrorist Ajmal Kasab, the 26/11 gunman’s march to the gallows may still take a while.
Kasab has the right to appeal before the President in the form of a mercy petition.
However, President Pranab Mukherjee already has at least 11 mercy petitions pending with him, including that of Afzal Guru, who was convicted in the Parliament attack case.
Many believe that Kasab’s case should be given priority as Rs. 26 crore of public money has already been spent to arrange for his security, and other necessities.
Securing 26/11 convict Ajmal Kasab has so far cost the Maharashtra government more than Rs. 26 crore. The terrorist is imprisoned at central Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail since November 2008.
According to home department official, who did not wish to be named, Rs. 5.25 crore was spent on construction costs towards building bulletproof anda cell (the egg-shaped solitary confinement cell] for him in the jail.
The authorities felt that securing Kasab was crucial to the case because he was the only piece of solid evidence that could confirm the involvement of terrorist groups based in Pakistan in the gruesome attacks.
The biggest amount -- Rs. 19.28 crore – was charged by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) that deputed its men to secure Kasab.
The state has asked ITBP to waive the charges but the security agency has not decided on it yet. ITBP continues to safeguard Kasab even now.
As per official records till June 2012, Rs. 38,879 was spent on his Kasab’s food, while his medical treatment and medicine cost more than Rs. 28,264.
The official said that in the past two months the state could have spent another Rs. 2000 on Kasab’s food and medicine.
The Public Works Department reinforced the cell in which Kasab was kept and also constructed a 20-ft-long bomb-and-bullet-proof tunnel on the jail premises to connect Kasab’s cell to the special court where the court trial was held.
The plan came in to force because authorities felt that the terrorist could be vulnerable to a grenade, artillery or chemical attack. PWD also installed CCTV cameras to monitor the place 24/7.
It is believed that Kasab may join the mercy queue to delay his execution. However, the question that arises now is whether Mukherjee will give in to public sentiment and give priority to his plea.
Sudeep Pasbola, criminal lawyer and president of sessions bar association, said the President could consider decide to fast-track the petition if he wanted to. “The President being head of the execution system, can decide on the plea as he feels fit,” he explained.
However, noted criminal advocate IP Bagaria feels that with the petition of so many still pending, a terrorist shouldn’t be given priority. “Everyone should be seen equally and one has to wait for their turn for justice,” Bagaria said.
According to criminal lawyer Wahab Khan, who has represented many accused in terrorist attack cases, even if Kasab’s mercy petition was given priority and a decision was taken, he might not be executed as there were hardly any executors left.
“Also, since Abu Jundal’s trial is pending, it may be years before the execution of the death sentence,” he said.
“The state should not wait for the trial of the others to finish. It is not mandatory and it will serve no purpose. If they wait, there are many accused who are absconding and the process will never end,” a few of them opined.