Top Indian jurists on Wednesday rejected international human rights organisations' criticism of the government's decision to hang Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving attacker of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.
Former CJIs JS Verma and VN Khare said the critics appeared to be unaware of the real situation prevailing in the country, and were opposed to the execution on simplistic ideological grounds.
Their response followed statements by Amnesty International and Human Right Watch (HRW), which expressed disappointment at Kasab's hanging. "Today's execution means India has taken a significant step backwards and joined the minority of countries that are still executing…We recognise the gravity of crimes for which Kasab was convicted and sympathise with the victims, but death penalty is the ultimate cruel and inhuman form of punishment," Amnesty International said.
HRW, a US-based rights group, appealed to the Indian government to remove death penalty from its legal system. "For a crime as serious and horrible as what Kasab committed, he deserved a life in prison. It is not a lighter sentence," its South Asia director, Meenakshi Ganguly, stated.
Justice Verma rejected these arguments. "The debate on the death sentence has been going on for years. My view is that it has to be retained in the law books for at least some offences such as terror attacks."
Justice Khare said critics of the death penalty, mainly the European Union and US, will have to factor in Indian conditions before seeking the scrapping of the death sentence. "It may be fine for the protected environments in those countries...," the former CJI said, adding that that in a country like India, which faces problems such as infiltration, terror attacks and internal hostilities, "a strong and effective deterrent was required".