Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab’s nearly four-year legal battle for life in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack case ended today with the Supreme Court upholding his death sentence while observing that the crime planned in Pakistan was of unprecedented enormity.
A bench of justices Aftab Alam and C K Prasad said,”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.”
The court held 25-year-old Kasab guilty of waging war against the country,saying the November 26,2008 Mumbai attack in which 166 people were killed showed a degree of depravity on his part seen in very few cases.
In terms of loss of life and property,and more importantly in its traumatising effect,the case stands alone,for awarding death penalty to Kasab who showed no remorse for his devilish act,the court said.
“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,” the bench said.
The court dismissed Kasab’s contention that the trial was not fair because the government did not provide him advocate during the time when he was arrested and put of trial.
Refusing to show any mercy to Kasab on account of hisyoung age and illiteracy,the apex court observed,”the offences committed by the appellant show a degree of cruelty,brutality and depravity as in very few other cases.
“It is already seen above that the appellant never showed any repentance or remorse,which is the first sign of any possibility of reform and rehabilitation.”
“I am more than certain that the planning and conspiracy to commit the crime were hatched in Pakistan,the perpetrators of crime were Pakistani trained at different centres in that country,and the devastation which took place at various places in the city of Mumbai,were executed by the appellant in furtherance thereof,” Justice Prasad writing a separate but concurring judgement said.
The apex court noted that the primary and foremost offence that Kasab and his co-conspirators committed was the offence of waging war against the Government of India.
“It does not matter that the target assigned to the appellant and Abu Ismail was CST Station where they killed a large number of people.
“What matters is that 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.
“The conspiracy,in furtherance of which the attack was made,was,inter alia,to hit at India,to hit at its financial centre; to try to give rise to communal tensions and create internal strife and insurgency,to demand that India should withdraw from Kashmir,and to dictate its relations with other countries,” the bench said.
It was in furtherance of those objectives that the attack was made,causing the loss of a large number of people and injury to an even greater number of people.
“Nothing could have been more in like manner and by like means as a foreign enemy would do,” the bench said.
Upholding the sentence,the court said,”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 route from Karachi to Mumbai,the landing site at Mumbai,the different targets at Mumbai were all predetermined,” it noted.
Senior advocate Raju Ramachandran,who defended Kasab in the apex court as amicus curiae,said he “bows down” to the apex court’s verdict.
“I bow to the verdict of the court…. I took it (the opportunity to defend Kasab) as a sacred duty and I performed it to the best of my ability,” said Ramachandran,who was asked to assist the court.
Former Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam,who had appeared for the Maharashtra government,also welcomed the verdict saying it is “a victory of justice and the Constitution of the country.”
The apex court said there was no reason to dispute the confession statement of Kasab and he cannot also claim that adequate legal assistance was not provided to him as argued by amicus curiae Ramachandran.
“We find no force in the submission. Earlier it is found that the confession by the appellant was quite voluntary and there was no violation of any Constitutional or legal right of the appellant in the recording of the confession. Hence,there is no reason for not taking the confession into consideration to judge the charges against the appellant,” it said.
“We are clearly of the view that the confessional statement recorded by the magistrate is voluntary and truthful,except insofar as it relates to the other two accused,namely,Fahim and Sabauddin,” the bench said.
The apex court upheld the acquittal of Fahim and Sabaudin and dismissed the prosecution’s appeal challenging their acquittal by the special court and the high court.
The bench pointed out that at another stage in the proceedings,the magistrate had once again asked why he wished to make the confessional statement,to which Kasab had replied that he wanted to set an example for others to follow him and become a Fidayeen like him.
“It is thus clear that he was not making a confessional statement from any position of weakness or resignation,or out of remorse.
“He was a hero in his own eyes,and in those circumstances it is not possible to hold that the confession was not voluntary,” the bench said.
The court also said that the State had complied with all Constitutional rights available to a convict at the time of the trial and if he did not avail the services at the pre-trial stage it was out of his own volition.
“We are,therefore,unable to agree with Ramachandran that the defence was not allowed sufficient time for preparation of the case and that denial of sufficient time vitiated the trial.”
“We are also clear in our view that the absence of a lawyer at the pre-trial stage was not only as per the wishes of the appellant himself,but that this absence also did not cause him any prejudice in the trial,” the bench said.
The object of the criminal law process is to find out the truth and not to shield the accused from the consequences of his wrongdoing.
Kasab,the only Pakistani terrorist caught alive in the mayhem that killed 166 persons,who is lodged in Arthur Road Prison in Mumbai,was sentenced to death by a special anti-terror court on May 6,2010,which was affirmed by the Bommbay High Court on February 21 last.
Nine other Pakistani terrorists were killed by security forces in the operations.