New Delhi: Justice has finally been delivered in the 26/11 terror attack case with the Supreme Court upholding the death sentence for Ajmal Amir Kasab, the only surviving Pakistani terrorist who attacked Mumbai in 2008.
It has taken around four years for the verdict in the case, and now there are voices from all over the country, particularly from the victims and families of martyrs, asking for immediate execution of the terrorist.
While the government expressed its happiness on the verdict of the apex court, the Opposition also welcomed the order, both saying the execution must not be delayed.
Those who lost their near and dear ones during the 26/11 also said that the verdict of the Supreme Court was welcome, but added that they still waited for Kasab to be hanged till death.
However, there was one person who did not take the verdict as a relief, but maintained that there must not be any relief for those who threaten the security of the country. K Unnikrishnan, father of 26/11 martyr Sandeep Unnikrishnan, said, "What relief? My son was a security personnel so the relief is knowing he did his job. There should be no mercy for those who threaten the security of our country."
Kalpana Pawar, the wife of slain constable Ambadas Pawar also called for immediate hanging of Kasab.
Meanwhile, Eknath Ombale, brother of Mumbai police constable Tukaram Ombale, said that they were just waiting for the implementation of the court orders, pointing to the case of Afzal Guru, whose death penalty has been delayed due to his mercy plea, which has been pending with the President of India.
Ombale said, "We have seen many judgments, but we are waiting for implementation. We don't need more aid from the government, what we need is exemplary punishment. People who don't differentiate while killing have no right to mercy. Had Afzal Guru been made an example and hung 10 years ago, maybe 26/11 and 13/7 wouldn't have happened."
The government, however, assured speedy proceedings in the case with Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde saying that if Kasab appealed for mercy in the case, the petition would be disposed of quickly.
The government also took the opportunity to draw the attention of Pakistan to the 26/11 trial which has been pending in the neighbouring country.
Union Minister of External Affairs, SM Krishna said, "SC is highest court of appeal. When it announces a verdict, it becomes the law of the land. Other things will also follow and I am sure that even Pakistan will take note of the verdict."
Home Secretary RK Singh called the verdict a vindication of the investigations by Indian agencies. He further said that the government would decide as and when a mercy plea was filed by the 26/11 terrorist, adding that he would have to first file a plea with the Maharashtra Governor.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan also welcomed the decision saying the verdict had proved that India believed in giving free trial.
"I welcome the decision of the SC. It has proved that we believe in giving fair trail to everyone. I hope the other process would be finished soon," said Chavan.
It was a rare occasion when the Opposition also appeared on the same page with the government. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said that the party welcomed the apex court verdict on Kasab.
Another senior BJP leader, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, reiterated that there must be no delay in the execution of the verdict, adding that India must take strong action against Pakistan.
"Our process of action against terrorists is very slow. We should take strong action against Pakistan which is the factory of terrorism. Those involved in terrorism against India should be hanged to death. There should not be delay in execution of the verdict," said BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.
Earlier, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justice Aftab Alam and Justice CK Prasad, while upholding the death sentence for Kasab, observed that he was a part of the larger conspiracy for waging war against the nation and had killed several people during the attack.
The Supreme Court said, "In terms of loss of life and property, and more importantly in its traumatising 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."
Kasab and his fellow terrorists were guilty of conspiracy to attack Mumbai which was hatched in Pakistan, of murdering people, and also waging war against the country, the court ruled while sentencing him to death.
"Ajmal Kasab's confessional statement was very much voluntary except a very small portion. Kasab waged war against India. It is the primary and the foremost offence committed by Kasab. We are more than certain that conspiracy was hatched in Pakistan," the bench held.
The court went on to say that after going through the evidence they have been left with no option but to award death penalty to Kasab while adding that he had been given a fair trial.
The Mumbai attacker had claimed that he was not provided a counsel by the Maharashtra government at pre-trial stage, which according to him "vitiated his trial in the case".
Former Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam, who had appeared for the Maharashtra government, called the case a landmark in the judicial history of India.
"The Supreme Court today dismissed appeal of Mohammad Ajmal Kasab. The evidence was placed before the court by both parties and the court had the chance to appreciate evidence from both parties. I respectfully bow down to the verdict, India must feel proud that it is democracy and every accused gets to represent his case," said Subramaniam.
Raju Ramachandran, who was been given the responsibility of defending Kasab, said he performed it to the best of his ability. "I bow to the court's verdict. Every submission which could be made on his behalf was made."
Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, who had doggedly fought the case to get Kasab convicted, was a relieved man after the Supreme Court order. "It is established that criminal conspiracy against India was hatched in Pakistan. This is a case where we have further established that this is an attack on sovereignty of India. I am satisfied that the punishment to Kasab stays. I welcome this important judgement. This is a strong message to the perpetrators of terrorism," said Nikam.
The audacious attack that started on November 26, 2008 with the 10 Pakistani terrorists storming major landmarks of Mumbai after landing on its coast not only stunned the world but also brought India and Pakistan on the brink of a war.
While Kasab was apprehended a few hours after the siege of Mumbai began by constable Tukaram Ombale, who laid down his life in trying to neutralise the attackers, the other nine attackers continued to bleed India's financial capital for over 60 hours resulting in the death of 166 people and injuring several others.
After the remaining nine terrorists were killed and the siege of Mumbai came to and end on November 29, the arduous task of getting the details of the attack, its planners and sponsors began. In less than 24 hours Kasab confessed that the Mumbai attack was planned and executed by the Pakistani military intelligence – ISI - and LeT.
Kasab's trial began on January 16, 2009 in a special court inside Mumbai's Arthur Road Jail where he was housed in a special cell. Armed with a plethora of evidences against Kasab, the prosecution represented by lawyer Ujjwal Nikam began the process of securing justice not only for 26/11 victims, but also for a wounded India that had watched helplessly as the Pakistani terrorists plundered Mumbai.
Kasab was charged on 86 counts by the court and the arguments in the case began. On March 31, 2010 the arguments in the case concluded and Kasab was convicted of waging a war against India on May 3.
He was sentenced to death by the special court on May 6 and moved the Bombay High Court on October 18 the same year where he appeared through video conferencing as it was considered to be very risky to bring him out of Arthur Road Jail.
The Bombay High Court upheld the trial court verdict on Kasab. He then moved the Supreme Court which stayed the execution of the death sentence awarded to him.
Finally on August 29 the apex court upheld Kasab's death penalty, bringing an end to one of the most famous cases of the country.