Mumbai, Feb 21 (IANS) Terming the 26/11 mayhem an attack to destabilise the Indian state, the Bombay High Court confirmed the death penalty awarded to Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Amir Kasab for his “extremely brutal, grotesque, diabolical, revolting” role in the assault and noted that the case fell in the “rarest of rare categories”.
“He (Kasab) indulged in mindless killings of innocent people with a view to overawing the government of India and achieve cessation of a part of Indian territory,” a division bench of Justice Ranjana Desai and Justice R.V. More said in their detailed 1,215-page verdict upholding the death sentence awarded May 2010 by Special Judge M.L. Tahaliyani on four counts.
“There was an attempt to create ill-will and disaffection between different religions of India so as to damage its secular fabric. Waging war is a serious crime which calls for deterrent punishment,” the judges said of the Nov 26-29 Mumbai attack that claimed the lives of 166 people, including 26 foreigners and injured over 200.
“This is, indeed, a rarest of rare cases involving uncommon and unprecedented crime for which sentence of life imprisonment is inadequate. We feel that we would never be as confident as we are today in confirming the death sentence. We are of the opinion that the death sentence must be confirmed,” the bench declared.
The high court observed that Kasab is “a threat to society” and committed murders of innocents in “an extremely brutal, grotesque, diabolical, revolting and dastardly manner”, exhibiting “extreme perversity and depravity”.
While Kasab, the sole surviving terrorist in the 26/11 attack grinned when the judgment was read out, Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam termed it “a triumph of justice”.
The high court, however, upheld the acquittal of two Indian co-accused – Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin Ahmed.
Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram hailed the verdict against Kasab, saying his trial had raised the prestige of the Indian judiciary. Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said the acquittal of the two Indians would be challenged in the Supreme Court.
Kasab’s government-appointed lawyer Farhana Shah declared they would recommend to him to appeal against the death sentence before the Supreme Court.
The high court upheld the four counts on which Kasab had been slapped with the death sentence by Special Judge Tahaliyani, including the killing of three top Mumbai police officers – Hemant Karkare, Vijay Salaskar and Ashok Kamte.
The bench noted that all the murders, displaying extreme “brutality and cruelty” were committed after previous planning.
“The crime is enormous in proportion. The magnitude of the attack is indicative of the pre-planning. The attack unleashed such a wave of terror that several victims were not even ready to come forward and depose in the court,” the judges noted with concern.
They said that Kasab never showed any remorse or repentance for what he had done, but loudly proclaimed that he wanted to be a role model for others, as was evident from his confessional statement on Nov 27, 2008, before a woman magistrate.
They said that the murder of innocent women, children, aged people and policemen with the use of AK-47s and bombs were committed in a manner “so as to arouse the extreme indignation of the community”.
Referring to Kasab’s “perverse and depraved nature”, the judges noted that it was he who suggested that the navigator of the fishing vessel Kuber, Amarchand Solanki, should be killed.
They bench that “Kasab is individually responsible for seven murders”.
“He has committed more than 66 murders in furtherance of common intention of himself and deceased A1-Abu Ismail. He has committed rest of the murders by abetting them by conspiracy,” the division bench added.
The judges dismissed the defence argument that Kasab was misguided and brainwashed by the Lashkar-e-Taiba, especially since he was given a chance to go away by the LeT.
“Therefore, it is impossible to say that he was misguided by LeT; that he did not have a mind of his own or that he was merely used by the handlers as a tool. He is not a misguided person. He knew the consequences of his actions and he wanted to be a part of the conspiracy and voluntarily joined it,” the judges said.
Bursting crackers and shouting slogans, Mumbaikars welcomed the verdict. Several people were seen sharing the news with each other while some shouted “Bharat mata ki jai”. They were unanimous in saying Kasab deserved death and the punishment should be expedited.
“My father’s soul will now rest in peace forever. I believe this is the apt punishment for Kasab and the likes of him,” said Deepak Bhonsale, son of assistant sub-inspector Balasaheb Bhonsale who was killed in the 26/11 attack. He wished it “would not take long” to put the verdict into action. “Hanging should be at the earliest,” he said.