Kasab death penalty: Expedite process, say lawyers

Mumbai : Hanging 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Amir Kasab may be sooner said than done. While some from the Mumbai’s lawyer fraternity said a fair process is vital, other feel that death sentence cases such as these should be speeded up.

“I feel a high profile terrorism case such as this should be fast-tracked, not only in the special court or the high court but also in the Supreme Court,” said Mahesh Vaswani, a Bombay High Court lawyer.

“A special department at the president’s office can take care of the mercy petitions in the same manner,” he added.

Anil Singh, chairperson of the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa, agreed and said any further delay in the case is pointless.

Vaswani, however, also said that a lifetime imprisonment will be a befitting punishment for Kasab.

“He should be imprisoned for life. It is a better punishment than death itself. He should be made to realise every single day of his life that he has taken many innocent lives,” he said.

Kasab was the only one of 10 Pakistani terrorists who attacked Mumbai Nov 26, 2008 to be caught alive. Striking at prominent locations in the city, they killed 166 people.

Kasab has been found guilty of killing at least 59 people in the 26/11 carnage. He has been charged with murder and waging war against the Indian state amongst other crimes.

He was sentenced to death May 6, 2010 by special judge M.L. Tahaliyani. He then appealed to the Bombay High Court, which Feb 21, 2011 upheld the death penalty following which he appealed in the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court Oct 10 this year stayed the execution of the death sentence. It directed completion of pleading by Nov 30 and that the appeal be listed for final hearing Jan 31, 2012.

Eminent lawyers say in case the Supreme Court also upholds the death penalty, Kasab can file a mercy petition which will require the president.

Special Public Prosecutor for the case Ujjwal Nikam said everybody has the right to a fair trial and that a due judicial process is called for in a democratic country.

“It is due to this man that we could trail the terror links to Pakistan. This happened due to our systematic judicial procedure,” he said.

Criticising reports published in a certain section of the media, Nikam also said the government was not spending as much as it was projected.

“Some say Rs.50 crore has been spent on Kasab while others quote another figure. However, there is no official confirmation on any of the figures and I don’t think the government has spent that big an amount,” he said.

Abbas Kazmi, Kasab’s former defence counsel, subscribed to the view.

He stated that most lawyers have not charged more than Re.1 as their fees to defend him.

“What expenses have been incurred on him must be only slightly higher than what is spent on other criminals,” he said.

Kazmi also emphasised that the law will be the same for everyone.

“We cannot have parallel laws or double standards. Hurried justice is buried justice. Like other criminals, Kasab has the right to go through the same procedure,” he said.

“Moreover, the fact that we were able to establish Kasab’s terror links to Pakistan and Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik vouched for hanging Kasab is worth the expenditure,” he added.

Niranjan Mundargi, an eminent criminal lawyer, however, said now that the Pakistani links of Kasab have been established, he should be hanged at the earliest.

“This surely has been one of the most fast-tracked cases in our judicial system, but any more delay will only do more harm. The process needs to be expedited even more from the president’s office,” he said.

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