New Delhi: Almost four year after Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Amir Kasab along with his nine associates, all of whom belonged to ISI-supported terror group Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), wreaked havoc in Mumbai, the Supreme Court upheld the death penalty awarded to him by a special Mumbai court and confirmed by the Bombay High Court.
While dismissing Kasab's petition, which was moved through senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, the two-judge bench of Justice Aftab Alam and Justice CK Prasad 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.
Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde assured the country that if Kasab appealed to the President of India for mercy, the petition would be disposed of quickly.
External Affairs Minister SM Krishna asked Pakistan to take note of the Supreme Court verdict and act against the masterminds of 26/11 carnage.
"Supreme Court is highest court of appeal. When it announces a verdict, it becomes law of the land. Other things would also follow and I am sure that even Pakistan will take note of the verdict," said Krishna.
Home Secretary RK Singh said that though Kasab can move a mercy petition to the Maharashtra Governor and then to the President, his conviction and sentencing is vindication of India investigating agencies.
The Kasab case was a rare occasion when the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spoke in one voice and asked the Centre to adopt a tough stand on terrorism and put pressure on Pakistan to expedite the 26/11 case against the accused on its soil.
"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.
For the security personnel martyred during the Mumbai carnage, the verdict came as a solace. They also demanded that India should not lower its guard against terrorism.
Parents of National Security Guard commando Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, who laid down his life while fighting the 26/11 attackers, said that there should no mercy for those who threaten the country's security.
"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," said Eknath Ombale, brother of Mumbai Police constable Tukaram Ombale.
Kalpana Pawar, wife of slain police constable Ambadas Pawar, asked why Kasab was still alive even though almost four years have passed since the attack.
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.