The 26/11 trial is believed to have been the fastest terror case ever conducted in India. But it’s been anything but easy for the government and its agencies to conduct the trial of Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab — the Pakistani Lashkar-e-Tayyaba operative who, along with nine others, attacked Mumbai on November 26, 2008.
Kasab’s location was kept secret while he was in police custody as agencies feared an attempt to kill him.
Over a month, the public works department fortified a section of Arthur Road jail. A bomb-proof passage was constructed for Kasab’s safe transition from jail to court and even the barracks, where the court was constructed, were covered with an iron sheet. The Indo-Tibetan Border Police was called in to ensure Kasab’s security as well as that of the court. When the trial started, the road outside was barricaded.
This was the same court and road that had witnessed the drama that accompanied the 14-year trial of the 1993 serial blasts case.
The Kasab trial had its share of drama, too.
A series of submissions saw the court remove Anjali Waghmare as Kasab’s lawyer. A day later, Kasab entered the courtroom with a wily grin and looked unperturbed with the goings on. There was a ripple in the court as he asked for an advocate from Pakistan. Finally, his defence was assigned to Abbas Kazmi, a private lawyer.
Then, when everything seemed to be in place, Kasab played another card. He claimed he was a juvenile and should be tried by the Juvenile Justice Board. An ossification test had to be conducted to ascertain his age, which turned out to be over 21 years.
The Pakistani resorted to several such tricks to confound the court.
First, he retracted the confession in which he had narrated his journey, from his indoctrination by Lashkar bosses to his arrest at Girgaum Chowpatty in the early hours of November 27, 2008.
A sudden change was seen in him. He lost the spunk he displayed during the early part of the trial as the prosecution began examining witnesses. Kasab sat quiet, his head held so low the judge had to ask him to sit upright.
During the same period, the “baby-faced assassin” dramatically admitted his guilt again. The trial, however, went on as Judge M.L. Tahiliyani decided not to act on his plea of guilt.
Later, Kasab stunned everyone again by denying his guilt and weaving a new tale. He claimed he came to Delhi by the Samjhauta Express on a valid visa and went to Mumbai to watch Bollywood films.
Kasab claimed the police arrested him 20 days before 26/11 at Juhu. He claimed he was paraded in place of a terrorist who looked like him.