22nd February 2011: They say that a picture speaks a thousand words. In this case, the picture of young Kasab, a bagpack over his shoulder, going on a wild killing spree with his blazing gun at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai in November 2008 and captured on CCTVs, speaks a million words. The lawyers of Ajmal Kasab, the lone Pakistani terrorist caught by the Mumbai police after the mayhem he and his fellow terrorists caused on the night of 26/11 in Mumbai, argued in the High Court yesterday that Kasab wasn’t given a fair chance to defend himself and it was necessary to refer the case back to the trial court. The High Court, however, stuck to its ruling and concluded that Kasab has the right to a competent lawyer to defend serious charges against him if he wants to appeal in the Supreme Court. The High Court in its ruling on February 21, upheld the death penalty for Kasab for a series of offences including waging war against the country (India) and brutal killing of innocent Indian citizens on the night of 26/11 in Mumbai.
The act of bravery and quick mindedness on the parts of Mumbai police were instrumental in catching the lone terrorist, Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab alive near Girgaum Chowpatty. Kasab was accompanied by another terrorist Ismail Khan who in a gun fight, was shot dead by Assistant Inspector Hemant Bavdhankar. ASI Tukaram Ombale along with sub inspector Bhaskar Kadam managed to brave the bullets to apprehend Kasab alive. Ombale clung to an armed Kasab in spite of having five bullets lodged in his body till other policemen rushed in to help. Later, Ombale succumbed to his injuries. Bhaskar Kadam went on to become the first prosecution witness to take the stands during the trial.
While the victims’ family rejoiced at the High Court verdict, there are still some of the survivors of the terror attack and the victims’ families who feel that the final justice will still take a long time to come. At this stage, as per the law of the country, Kasab is still free to appeal in the Supreme Court against the death penalty. This can be done within two months of Kasab receiving the High Court order. If the Supreme Court upholds the death sentence, Kasab can file a mercy petition before the President of India. As of now, there are about 27 other mercy petitions pending in the President’s office since 1997. By the time, his turn comes up, the year will be in all likelihood 2018 or so.
Does Kasab’s acts on that fateful night of 26/11 which saw the end of hundreds of innocent lives at Kasab’s and his fellow terrorists’ hands justify two year long legal case and probably, another 10 years of wait before a final outcome to this case comes up, before he is punished for his drastic act? The trial court followed by the High Court in its functioning has been fast and the judgment merited a round of applause by the citizens of this country who largely felt that justice has been done. However, these two years of laborious court cases and the amount of hard work put in by the Mumbai police and the patience of the people of India and especially of the surviving victims and those who lost their lives and their families who waited for these two years to hear the final verdict, the HC judgment brought a smile to their otherwise bereaved faces. This also marked a historic significance for the country which is waging a long battle against terrorism in any and every form. This verdict comes as a big blow to terrorists and terrorists organizations out to wage wars with India. The message is clear and strong that India and its people will not cow down easily to the acts of terrorism and every terrorist would be dealt with strictly and severely.
On the one hand, we have the ‘Aman Ki Asha’, a peace initiative between India and Pakistan and on the other hand, we have Pakistanis like Ajmal Kasab and his cronies waging a war against the government of India. What people like Kasab don’t realize is they should be fighting for peace and not waging war against peace.
The government of India on its part has already spent over Rs.45 crore to keep the lone gunman alive. This includes his security, a special jail to house him as well as hospital room. On an average, the government spends Rs.9 lakh daily on his safekeeping. Over the years, if Kasab does appeal in the Supreme Court and on the event of the appeal being upheld, if he files a mercy petition before the President of India, the figure of Rs.45crore would pale in comparison to the final figure that will get thrown up on the final judgment day. A very expensive mean to keep a terrorist alive! But then this expense is justified on the grounds that with Kasab’s role being proved in the 26/11 mayhem and his nationality playing a big role in his terrorist activity, India has been able to reiterate to the world the role Pakistan played in the brutal attack on Mumbai in 2008 through its Pakistani national Ajmal Kasab and nine others who were trained in Pakistan in terrorist activities.
On the legal front, the Mumbai Police along with other intelligence teams, fully aided by the public prosecutors and hundreds of witnesses were able to prove in the trial court the gory mayhem caused by the Ajmal Kasab and nine other terrorists. Ajmal Kasab was found guilty of individually killing seven people in South Mumbai. He was also found guilty of murdering additional 66 people along with fellow terrorist Abu Ismail, the prominent victims being ATS chief Hemant Karkare, senior police officer Ashok Kamte and Vijay Salaskar. Other then this, he was also found guilt of abetting the murder of 93 other people as well as proven guilty on account of waging war against the country. It was no mean feat on the part of the prosecution to prove Kasab guilty as some of the key witnesses earlier were skeptical about disposing in the court. But a love for the country and their beloved who lost their lives, along with the intention of punishing the guilty, finally nailed Kasab for his crimes.
Ajmal Kasab now joins another high profile convict Mohammad Afzal Guru who’s been sentenced to death for plotting the December 2001 terrorist attack on the Parliament in New Delhi in which five policemen along with a civilian and six terrorists were killed. His capital punishment was upheld by the Supreme Court on August 4, 2005 and subsequently, Afzal Guru had filed a mercy petition with the President of India on January 4, 2006. It’s one of the 27 other mercy petitions pending since 1997.
The High Court, by upholding the death penalty, has sent out a strong message to the terrorists that it will not tolerate any acts of treason against this country, India. And with the death penalty awarded to Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, history will be a witness to the first non-Indian to be sent to the gallows! This will be a lesson to other terrorists or wannabe terrorists of what their fate will be if they did to India what Ajmal Kasab and his fellow terrorists did on that fateful night of 26/11.