New Delhi: The Indian Supreme Court Wednesday upheld the death sentence awarded to Pakistani terrorist Kasab for his role in the Mumbai savagery, marking the end of the legal battle for a man who desperately tried to escape the hangman’s noose.
In a ruling bound to cast a shadow on India-Pakistan relations, Justices Aftab Alam and C.K. Prasad said: “We are constrained to hold that death penalty is the only sentence that can be given in the circumstances.”
The verdict got a thumps up from both the Congress and the BJP besides those who survived the Nov 26-29 audacious attack that left 166 Indians as well as foreigners dead and scores injured.
In Iran, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said he was sure Pakistan would “take note of what has happened in the Supreme Court”.
There was no immediate official reaction in Pakistan.
Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, now 25 and in a Mumbai prison, was one of 10 heavily armed Pakistanis who sneaked into Mumbai by sea Nov 26, 2008 night and unleashed mayhem that almost caused an India-Pakistan war.
After initial denials, Islamabad admitted in January 2009 that Kasab was a Pakistani.
“I am more than happy,” reacted Ragini Sharma in Mumbai. Her husband, Sushil Kumar Sharma, a railway officer, was one of the many gunned down by Kasab and an accomplice at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.
“My husband is not going to return but it gives some peace to my soul that the perpetrator of the crime has been punished even if he is just a pawn.”
Both Ragini Sharma and others in Mumbai insisted that the Pakistani should be hanged at the earliest.
Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh also said that Kasab should be executed quickly.
Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray demanded that Kasab should be hanged publicly.
The Pakistani moved the apex court challenging the death sentence given by a trial court, which was upheld by the Bombay High Court.
The judges rejected Kasab’s contention that the Mumbai attack was a war against the Indian government and not against the Indian state or people.
Kasab, the only Pakistani terrorist to be captured, came from a poor family in an impoverished village of Pakistan’s Punjab province. Son of a vendor, he signed up with the Lashkar-e-Taiba to wage jehad.
The Supreme Court said the Indian government was only the elected organ of the state and the repository of sovereign powers.
The court did not accept Kasab’s argument that not providing him a lawyer soon after his arrest vitiated the entire process, including his trial and consequent conviction and sentencing on 80 counts.
The judges reminded him that he had initially refused to accept an Indian lawyer.
In a concurring judgment giving more reasons for upholding Kasab’s death sentence, Justice Prasad said it was evident that the conspiracy to attack Mumbai was hatched by Pakistanis in Pakistan.
The court also upheld the acquittal of Indians Fahim Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed who were accused of providing vital support to the Pakistani killers prior to the 26/11 attack.
The Maharashtra government had challenged the acquittal of Fahim and Sabauddin by the Bombay High Court.
Kasab was given death sentence by a Mumbai trial court May 6, 2010. The Bombay High Court upheld the death penalty Feb 21, 2011.