Describing the November 26,2008 terror attack on Mumbai as an attack on India and Indians which deserved the rarest of rare punishment,the Supreme Court Wednesday confirmed the death sentence of Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab.
A bench of Justices Aftab Alam and C K Prasad said that Kasab,the only Lashkar-e-Toiba attacker who survived the three-day outrage on Indias financial capital,had showed no remorse or the possibility of rehabilitation after his arrest and in fact considered himself as a hero and a patriotic Pakistani at war. He had no feeling of pity and killed without the slightest twinge of conscience and the gallows remained the only punishment for him,the court said.
This,to our mind,forecloses the possibility of any reform or rehabilitation of Kasab. The alternative option of life sentence is thus unquestionably excluded in this case and death remains the only punishment that can be given to him, the judges said as they dismissed Kasabs appeal against his conviction and the death sentence that had been upheld by the Bombay High Court in February last year.
We can even say that every single reason that this court might have assigned for confirming a death sentence in the past is to be found in this case in a more magnified way, the court said. The attack was aimed at India and Indians. It was by foreign nationals. People were killed for no other reason than they were Indians. In case of foreigners,they were killed because their killing on Indian soil would embarrass India.
While upholding the death penalty for Kasab,the court also maintained the acquittal of Fahim Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed,the two Indians who were accused of helping plan the attack. We are in full agreement with the reasons assigned by the trial court and the high court for acquitting the two accused of all the charges. The view taken by the trial court and the high court is not only correct but on the facts of the case,that is the only possible view, said the court,dismissing the appeal of the Maharashtra government against their acquittal.
Kasab and nine other terrorists came by boat from Karachi and killed 165 people at more than half-a-dozen locations in South Mumbai. They had also killed at sea the navigator of the boat they had hijacked off Gujarats coast before launching the attacks. Kasab now has the option of seeking a review of Wednesdays verdict or move a mercy plea before the President.
In its 398-page verdict,the bench held Kasab and his accomplice Abu Ismail responsible for killing at least 72 people,of whom Kasab personally killed seven. The court said that capital punishment was still a constitutionally valid punishment in India and to hold back the death penalty in this case would amount to obdurately declaring that this court rejects death as lawful penalty even though it is on the statute book and held valid by constitutional benches of this court.
The court said that this case had shocked the collective conscience of the Indian people as only few other in the past. This is a case of terrorist attack from across the border. It has a magnitude of unprecedented enormity on all scales. The conspiracy behind the attack was as deep and large as it was vicious. The preparation and training for the execution was as thorough as the execution was ruthless. In terms of loss of life and property,and more importantly in its traumatizing effect,this case stands alone,or it is at least the very rarest of rare to come before this court since the birth of the republic. Therefore,it should also attract the rarest of rare punishment, it said.
In a concurring note with the main judgment,Justice Prasad called the case an exception where the court was more than certain that the planning and conspiracy to commit the crime were hatched in Pakistan,the perpetrators of crime were Pakistanis trained at different centres in that country,and the devastation which took place at various places in the city of Mumbai,were executed by Kasab in furtherance thereof.
The court also discarded doubts raised over Kasabs incriminatory confessional statement and held it to be voluntary and truthful. On the point that he had not been provided a lawyer at the pre-trial stage,the bench said that it was not only as per the wishes of Kasab as he wanted a lawyer only from Pakistan,but also that this absence did not cause any prejudice in the trial.