To hang or not to hang - the SC verdict upholding the conviction and death penalty awarded to 26/11 accused Ajmal Kasab is bound to intensify the debate over desirability of death penalty in India.
Hitherto squabbling over the hanging of Parliament attack case convict Afzal Guru, political parties appears to have suddenly forgotten their sharp ideological and political differences to seek Kasab's execution at the earliest.
Congress, BJP and NCP leaders - all are speaking in the same voice.
Notwithstanding this rare political unanimity, the issue of death penalty remains contentious.What about hanging Afzal Guru? Will the Congress-led government agree to the demand to hang him quickly? The answer remains to be seen.
It is almost certain that Kasab will use all possible means to escape the gallows or at least delay it. Will the government jump the queue in the event of Kasab eventually filing a mercy plea?
The manner in which successive governments have been sitting over mercy pleas of death row convicts for years raises serious questions over the use (if not misuse) of discretionary powers by constitutional authorities.
The inordinate delay is not only painful to those seeking justice for their dear ones killed in the terror attack but is also inhuman to the man on death row.
SC had in 2009 reminded the government that "human beings are not chattel (slaves) and shouldn't be used as pawns in furthering some larger political (goal) or government policy."Already, three killers of Rajiv Gandhi and Punjab terrorist Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar - convicted of a 1993 terror attack - have moved the Supreme Court for commuting their death penalty to life imprisonment on the ground of inordinate delay in deciding their mercy pleas.
The government is virtually inviting guidelines on the issue. Who is to be blamed for judicial activism?
As for death penalty, despite having voted against a UN resolution for a moratorium on it in 2007 India is heading towards its abolition.
Since 1995, there has been only one execution, in 2004.
Will Kasab case change this?