Just after 11 am on Monday, as the first witness stepped into the box, Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, 21, the sole surviving 26/11 terrorist, stood up in his white kurta-pyjamas and told the trial judge “Gunah kabool hai [I admit to the crime].”
So what now that Kasab has made this confession? Will the trial end early?
It can, if the court decides that Kasab was not coerced into admitting his guilt. The court would then wind up the case and sentence him.
But the trial can drag on if the court decides the confession was made under duress. Kasab’s statement would then be made part of the case records and the trial would continue.
Special Judge M L Tahilyani will decide on Tuesday.
The drama unfolded as soon as the hearing began on the 65th day of the 26/11 trial. Kasab, who was sitting quietly in the courtroom at the Arthur Road jail, said he wanted to speak to his lawyer, Abbas Kazmi. They put their heads together for a short while before the lawyer turned around and said his client had something to say.
Without waiting for the lawyer to say more, Kasab smiled and admitted his guilt. The judge was taken back and asked: “Kya? Gunah kabul hai? [What, are you admitting your crime?].” Kasab nodded.
Special public prosecutor, Ujjwal Nigam, objected saying the trial was in progress and the accused could not admit to his guilt at this juncture.
The judge brushed this contention aside saying: “He has a right to admit to his guilt at any time of the trial.”
“Punish me and finish this trial,” Kasab said after the court recorded his confession of his role in the November 26, 2008, attack on Mumbai by 10 terrorists from Pakistan who killed 166 people during a 60-hour siege.
The judge then asked him: “Why are you confessing now? Why did you not confess when the charges were framed earlier?”
Kasab: “Initially, Pakistan had not accepted my nationality. Now that they have, I am confessing.”
Judge: “ How do you know that Pakistan has admitted?”
Kasab: “ I just came to know. I heard that Pakistan has said that Kasab is from there.”
Judge: “ Are you under any kind of pressure to confess?”
Kasab had earlier this year, too, made a confessional statement (see P9), which was recorded by a magistrate and submitted to the court by the prosecution. But Kasab retracted at the start of the trial.