The trial of Pakistani national Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the main accused in the 26/11 attacks, and two Indian co-accused, began more than seven months ago. The question on everyone’s lips is: When will it end?
Although no one will go on record on such a delicate matter, the consensus in the legal community is that it is likely to conclude within the first quarter of next year. If it does, the trial will have lasted for less than a year, which experts say is fairly remarkable.
The trial began in April, about four months after the attack, with the special court of Judge M.L. Tahaliyani framing 86 charges against the Pakistani national and the two Indian co-accused, Mumbai-based Fahim Ahmed Ansari and Bihar native Sabauddin Ahmed.
In contrast, the 1993 bomb blasts trial dragged on for 12 years. In the U.S., too, a Manhattan court is yet to begin trying Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, an accused in the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
The U.S. had held him for six years in its controversial Guantánamo Bay detention camp, where interrogators subjected him more than 180 times to a torture technique called “waterboarding”.
The 26/11 trial is special also because of the unprecedented security being accorded to the court premises, including the stationing of Indo-Tibetan Border Police commandos armed with AK-47 rifles and rocket launchers.
The court has covered considerable ground so far. It has completed recording the depositions of more than 270 prosecution witnesses, including victims, eyewitnesses, hostages, police personnel, forensic experts and FBI sleuths.
As the trial proceeded, Kasab’s moods shifted daily. He would sometimes grin, at other times, he would slip into apparent gloominess.
After pleading “not-guilty”, Kasab abruptly turned tail in July. The court decided to continue the trial despite this. (See senior advocate Amit Desai’s ‘Why Kasab deserves a fair trial’).