A special court in Mumbai on Wednesday set May 3 for pronouncing its verdict in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks case, over a year after trial began in the sensational case that saw several ups and downs, including prime accused Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab retracting his confession.
According to Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, the final arguments in the case ended here Wednesday and Speial Judge ML Tahaliyani scheduled the verdict for May 3. Kasab and his Indian associates Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin Ahmed are the prime accused in the case.
"Thereafter, if Kasab is found guilty, then the special judge would decide about the punishment," a beaming Nikam told mediapersons.
Appearing relieved of the major burden of single-handedly conducting the prosecution, Nikam said this is the first time in the world that a trial against a dreaded terrorist has been completed in a record seven months -- he was discounting the court holiday due to parliamentary elections and Maharashtra assembly polls, and other vacations.
"This is despite the fact that Kasab made every possible attempt to scuttle and delay the court proceedings against him," Nikam pointed out.
First, Kasab claimed to be a minor and the prosecution determinedly disproved his claim.
Later, he alleged that he was being poisoned in the jail and even presented some powder before the special judge, but on examination it turned out to be ordinary rice powder, Nikam said.
Nikam also referred to Kasab's other delaying tactics like confessing, and retracting his confessions several times, feigning illnesses and other things.
"It proved that he was an actor par excellence and was following the Al-Qaeda manual to delay and disrupt the proceedings against him," Nikam declared.
However, Nikam expressed happiness that it's "all over now" and the day of judgment has been finally fixed.
The special public prosecutor said that with the huge police evidences and the testimony of a whopping 650 witnesses, the prosecution was able to establish that not just the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) but even some Pakistani Army officials were linked to the 26/11 terror attacks.
"It is not just because Kasab said it, but also on the basis of the evidences on record," Nikam added.
He said that even LeT operative David Headley, currently in a US jail, had named the involvement of some high-ranking Pakistanis in the attack.
"With all this, we were able to conclude that it was a state-sponsored act of terrorism," Nikam urged.
The court-appointed lawyer representing Kasab, KP Pawar told media persons that he attempted to rip apart the prosecution's "false and fabricated claims" against the prime accused.
"I attempted to argue on the probability and improbability of the happenings, whether Kasab was present at the time of the incidents mentioned by the prosecution and other aspects," Pawar said.
He said that he questioned the genuineness of many of the evidences, including photographs and close circuit television camera footage presented before the special court.
"I hope that all this would be taken into account by the special court before pronouncing the final verdict against the accused," Pawar said.
The Maharashtra government had on Jan 13 last year appointed ML Tahaliyani as the special judge for the case, and charge sheets were filed against Kasab and two others on Feb 25.
The first eyewitness to depose in the case May 8, 2009, identified Kasab.