India’s Supreme Court on August 29 upheld the death sentence of Ajmal Amir Kasab, rejecting a plea by the lone surviving terrorist of the 2008 Mumbai attacks to commute the capital punishment.Observing that the primary and foremost offence that Kasab was charged with was waging war against India, the apex court bench comprising of justice Aftab Alam and justice CK Prasad passed the verdict saying, “We are left with no option, but to uphold the sentence.”
Kasab wanted his death sentence pronounced by a trial court to be reversed.Following the verdict Kasab can now file a review petition in the Supreme Court within the next 30 days which will be examined by the same bench, on the rejection of which a curative petition can be filed, which will be examined by a different bench in the court.
If the curative petition is also dismissed, Kasab can appeal for clemency and file a mercy petition with the President PranabMukherjee, who reach a decision based on a recommendation by the Union Home Ministry. Kasab had appealed to the Bombay High Court first which upheld the trial court order in October last year and now the Supreme Court also upheld the trial court order of May 2010. The court had earlier reserved the order after hearing the arguments of both the prosecution and defense counsels for more than two-and-a-half months. After the verdict, Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said the verdict is an important one. “I am very satisfied that for the first time we proved in a court of law that Kasab and his nine associates had been sponsored by Pakistan. Pakistan’s army and terror outfit Lashkar were behind it,” Nikam said. “Pakistan encourages terrorism and now if the country is serious about curbing it it should also act against those who were behind Kasab,” he said. In his judgment Justice Prasad said, “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.” Kasab argued that he was denied free and fair trial and he was not part of a larger conspiracy of engaging into a war against a nation. Kasab had filed the appeal from the prison that challenged his conviction and death sentence. Raju Ramachandran was appointed by the Supreme Court to represent Kasab as an amicus curiae. After the judgment, Ramachandran said he “bows before the verdict of the Supreme Court.” He said he was given full opportunity to say what he wanted in defence of Kasab. Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde on Wednesday said the government would see that if Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone surviving Pakistani terrorist in 26/11 Mumbai attacks, files a mercy plea then it is disposed of in minimum time. “In case Ajmal Kasab files a mercy plea then we will ensure that it is disposed of in minimum time,” Shinde told reporters on Wednesday. Indian External Affairs minister S M Krishna on Wednesday said Pakistan should take ‘note’ of the Supreme Court’s decision that upheld the sentence of Kasab who had challenged the trial court verdict in the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai in the apex court. “The Supreme Court is the highest court; whenever it pronounces its verdict it becomes the law of the land,” Krishna told reporters in Tehran. “I am sure Pakistan did not fail to take note of the verdict,” he said. Politicians across party lines on Wednesday welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision on Kasab. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said: “The terrorists had challenged the security and peace of the nation. If there were more stringent punishments then it should have been given to him (Kasab). There should not be any delay in execution of the verdict.” Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said: “The entire country knew or I should say every country knew the role of Kasab, who had come to this nation from Pakistan. We have our own legal procedures. The Supreme Court upheld the decision. Everything became clear today. The world realized the situation.” Welcoming the verdict, Union Home Secretary RK Singh said: “In our judicial system everyone has opportunity to go to the highest court in the land.” “Mercy petition has not been filed,” he said while speakig on Kasab’s mercy plea issue. Kasab has been lodged in a Mumbai jail since being captured following the Mumbai terror attacks that left 166 people dead and over 300 injured. He had been convicted and sentenced to death by a trial court court in Mumbai and later by the Bombay High Court in February last year. Kasab was one of the ten Pakistan-based militants who launched coordinated strikes in vital places of India’s financial capital including two luxury hotels, a hospital, a Jewish centre and a railway station on Nov 26, 2008. Ajmal Kasab’s journey from petty crime to jihad He belonged to a poor family, in an impoverished part of Pakistan. Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab’s journey from crime to jihad and to India began after his father refused to buy him new clothes on Eid. Until then, the now 25-year-old Kasab — whose death sentence was upheld Wednesday by the Supreme Court of India – – led a simple life in Pakistani Punjab’s Okara district. His father was a food vendor while a brother was a laborer in Lahore. Kasab decided to quit home in 2005 after quarrelling with his father, who could not provide him new clothes because of poverty. The disgusted young man then took to petty crime, graduating to armed robbery. A chance encounter with Jama’at-ud- Da’wah, the political wing of Lashkar-e- Toiba, changed his life forever. It did not take long for him to sign up for training with the bitterly anti-India Lashkar. He was last seen in his village some six months before the November 2008 Mumbai attack. Apparently, he had sought blessings from his mother to wage jihad. Kasab was among the terrorists who underwent strenuous training that is said to have had the backing of Pakistan’s Inter- Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. The Lashkar reportedly offered to pay his family Rs.150,000 for his participation in the Mumbai attack — on the assumption that he would become a “shaheed” (martyr). Kasab and the nine other Pakistani terrorists sailed to Mumbai in two hijacked vessels with three targets in mind: the iconic Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Oberoi Trident Hotel and Nariman House. Technology proved to be Kasab’s undoing. He was captured on CCTV when he unleashed mayhem at the crowded Chhatrapati Shivaji railway terminus along with fellow terrorist Ismail Khan. He was filmed carrying an AK-47, ammunition and dried fruit. Kasab and Khan then hijacked a police vehicle after killing, among others, Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare. As they drove drove towards Metro cinema, Kasab reportedly cracked jokes about the bulletproof vests worn by the police. As fate would have it, one of the tyres suffered a puncture, so they stole another vehicle. This ran into a police barricade at Chowpatty. Kasab and Khan tried to make a U-turn. The alert policemen opened fire, killing Khan. A panicky Kasab pretended as if he was dead. But when assistant sub-inspector Tukaram Omble approached him, Kasab opened fire, killing him. Omble took five bullets but — in an act of bravery that made him a posthumous hero – – held on to Kasab’s weapon, enabling his colleagues to overpower him. The entire incident was captured on video — for posterity. Once in police custody, Kasab begged his interrogators to kill him, saying he feared for the safety of his family in Pakistan. He knew he had violated a cardinal jihadi principle: Never surrender. It was Kasab who first revealed that he and the other terrorists were in touch with their handlers in Karachi throughout the murderous mission. Pakistan initially maintained that Kasab was not a Pakistani. But the Pakistani media was the first to disprove the claim. Former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif confirmed his nationality. Kasab’s father eventually revealed that Kasab was his son. With nothing left to conceal, Islamabad finally admitted in January 2009 that the Urdu speaking man was indeed a Pakistani. In December 2009, Kasab retracted his confession. He said he had come to Mumbai to act in Bollywood films! Expedite 26/11… Asked about Zardari’s response to the demand for speeding up the 26/11 trial, Mathai quoted the president as reiterating his commitment to bring to justice the perpetrators but saying he was facing a judicial roadblock. Zardari, Mathai said, ‘mentioned they have had the processes taken up in the court and the court had taken a different view when the trial resumed. Thus, they have requested a repeat visit’ of the judicial commission that come to India to examine the witnesses in the trial of Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone terrorist captured alive in the Nov 26-29, 2008 attack that claimed 166 lives. On August 29, the Indian Supreme Court had confirmed the death sentence handed to Kasab for his role in the attack. However, the Kasab issue did not figure in the meeting, Mathai said. Asked about Pakistan’s fresh request on the judicial commission, the foreign secretary said: ‘Earlier, the question was whether our processes would allow the questioning of the three indivduals (Pakistan) had sought. The home minister has said that let the visit take place.’ ‘This time, we will have to get a judicial view on whether cross-examination is possible,’ he said, adding that no time line had been set. Both leaders also felt that the meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries early next month ‘would be an opportunity’ to chart out the roadmap for further dialogue. Trade issues were also discussed, with Zardari saying that given the ‘great scope for regional economic cooperation, Pakistan can be a catalyst in this process. The prime minister welcomed this approach,’ the foreign secretary said. Responding to a question on the US placing eight more members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, including the son of its founder Hafiz Saeed, on the terror list, Mathai said: ‘We welcome all steps to combat global terror.’ India says Hafiz Saeed masterminded the Mumbai attack.