Describing the 26/11 terror attack here as “indeed the rarest of rare cases involving uncommon and unprecedented crime,” the Bombay High Court on Monday upheld the death sentence awarded by the trial court to the lone surviving gunman, Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab. It also upheld the acquittal of co-accused Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin Ahmed for want of corroborative evidence.
The terror attack claimed 166 lives and left 238 injured.
“Apko di gayi sazaye maut ko barkarar kiya jaata hai [The death sentence given to you has been upheld],” Justice Ranjana Desai told Kasab, who was briefly produced before the court via videoconferencing. He could appeal in the Supreme Court for which free legal aid would be provided by the government.
Though there was no discernible reaction on his part after the verdict, Kasab was seen smiling, smirking and laughing to himself before the court convened.
Justice Desai, who along with R.V. More was on a Division Bench, dwelt at length on the “extreme brutality and cruelty” of Kasab's crime and his lack of remorse. In light of his acts, “the lone mitigating circumstance” of his young age “must recede in the background,” she said.
“The brutality, perversity and cruelty exhibited by Kasab by committing multiple murders of innocent men, women, children, aged persons and policemen without provocation for a motive which has no moral justification makes this case the gravest case of extreme culpability.”
Outside the court, Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam called the conformation “a victory of truth and failure of antics.” He said he would recommend the State that it challenge the acquittal of Fahim and Sabahuddin. Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil said the State would appeal their acquittals.
According to the prosecution, Fahim made a handmade map of target locations and Sabahuddin was responsible for conveying them to the Lashkar handlers.
Even as defence “graciously accepted” the verdict, Kasab's lawyer Farhana Shah told journalists that the pace of the trial at the lower court and the High Court was an inhibiting factor. “We did not get a chance to defend properly. We will raise the same point at the Supreme Court too.”
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra government called for stepping up pressure on Pakistan to act against the guilty.
Commenting on the verdict, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said: “While India is conducting the trial in a transparent and fair manner, the trial has not even begun in Pakistan. We appeal to the Union government to bring all the international pressure on Pakistan to unearth the conspiracy and bring all the guilty to book.”