The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the death sentence of Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, the only surviving Pakistani terrorist among the 10 who attacked Mumbai on November 26, 2008, killing 166 people.
The court rejected 25-year-old Lashkar-e-Taiba operative’s contention that he was denied a free and fair trial and held him guilty of “waging a war” against India. It said the conspiracy to “launch the murderous attack on” India’s financial capital was hatched in Pakistan.
Kasab and the nine other Pakistani terrorists landed in south Mumbai on the night of November 26, 2008, travelling from Karachi by sea. They split into teams and targeted several Mumbai landmarks, including Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Taj Hotel, Oberoi Trident, Leopold Cafe, Cama Hospital and Nariman House.
Political parties demanded that Kasab be executed at the earliest. “The punishment should be executed quickly,” said Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh. According to BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, “Those who wage war against the country and kill innocents deserve no mercy... Kasab should be hanged without any delay...”
Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde said the government would ensure that if Kasab filed a mercy plea, it was disposed of in minimum time.
“This is a case of terrorist attack from across the border. It has a magnitude of unprecedented enormity on all scales,” said a bench of Justice Aftab Alam and Justice CK Prasad, confirming the Bombay high court’s nod to his death sentence.
Kasab is yet to know about the Supreme Court’s verdict. The authorities at Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail, where he is lodged, will have to provide a copy of the judgment, which may take a day or two to arrive from Delhi.
“We are required to break the news of death sentence to a convict with valid paperwork,” said CA Rane, superintendent of the jail. The court also upheld the acquittal of Fahim Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed, the two Indians accused of conspiring with Kasab. Their acquittal had been challenged by the Maharashtra government.
“The conspiracy behind the attack was as deep and large as it was vicious,” the bench said.
“The preparation and training for the execution was as thorough as the execution was ruthless. In terms of loss of life and property and its traumatising effect, this case stands alone, or is at least the very rarest of rare to come before this court since the birth of the Republic,” the bench added.
Kasab had pleaded for life sentence on grounds of his age and claimed he was brain-washed by the Lashkar. But the court concluded he had no remorse and was beyond reforming. It held his confessional statement to be voluntary and said Kasab killed his victims simply because they were Indians.
The bench criticised the electronic media for its “reckless coverage” of the 26/11 attacks. It said, “By covering the attack live, the Indian TV channels were not serving any national interest or social cause. On the contrary, they were acting in their own commercial interests, putting national security in jeopardy.”
While senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, who defended Kasab as amicus curiae, bowed to the verdict, former solicitor general Gopal Subramaniam, who appeared for Maharashtra government, welcomed the judgment as a “victory of justice”.