Pushing the lone surviving 26/11 terrorist, Ajmal Kasab, closer to the gallows, home minister Sushilkumar Shinde has advised President Pranab Mukherjee to reject Lashkar terrorist’s mercy petition filed barely 31 days ago.
Shinde’s recommendation to the President is in line with the recommendation of Maharashtra governor K Sankaranarayan and the no-mercy-for-terrorists principle laid down by his predecessor P Chidambaram, a government official said.
Mukherjee inherited 11 cases of mercy petitions from Pratibha Patil. The petition of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru was one of them. The Constitution does not stipulate a deadline for the President. But government officials hope Mukherjee will be more decisive than his predecessors.
But the Kasab case stands out for the speed at which the UPA government has acted. Shinde did promise to take a decision “as early as possible” after holding meetings within hours of Kasab filing his mercy plea.
In the process, Shinde seems to have set a record of sorts.
The last time the home ministry had acted so quickly was in 1996 when it recommended rejection of the mercy plea in 32 days of a Rajasthan villager convicted of killing his family.
Government sources said the overwhelming evidence against Kasab brought out in the judicial verdicts and the absence of any special circumstances deserving his mercy appeared to have helped in taking an early decision.
So did the fact that Kasab's case had remained non-political from the very beginning.
The 25-year-old Pakistani and nine fellow Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists had sailed into Mumbai on November 26, 2008 from Karachi and gone on a shooting spree that killed 166 people. Kasab was the only one captured alive by security forces.
Ujjwal Nikam, special public prosecutor in the 26/11 case, welcomed the home ministry recommendation.
"We have shown to the entire world that in a democratic country like India, we can complete trial against a terrorist within the shortest possible time by following the principles of natural justice and legal process”, Nikam told Press Trust Of India.
Nikam appealed to Rashtrapati Bhavan to take an early decision ahead of the next anniversary of the attacks in November. “This would be a great homage to the victims,” he said.