M A I N   N E W S

Gallows for Kasab
No option, says Judge
Jubilation outside court
Execution may take time, verdict can be challenged
Shiv Kumar/Tribune News Service

Mumbai, May 6
Mohammad Ajmal Amir alias Kasab, the lone Pakistani terrorist to be taken alive in connection with the November 26, 2008, terror attacks in Mumbai has been sentenced to death by hanging. The execution, however, may take time, as Kasab has the option of appealing in higher courts, including the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court. And if all of this fails, he can file a mercy petition before the President.

Judge ML Tahilyani of the special court set up to try Kasab handed down the sentence today after having found him guilty earlier this week of carrying out the terror attacks.

Kasab, 22, was given death penalty on four counts of murder, abetment and conspiracy of murder, waging war against the state and under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. In all, he was found guilty of murdering seven persons, being part of the conspiracy to murder 159 others and waging war against India. In addition, he was given life imprisonment on five counts.

Announcing the sentence, the Judge noted that there was little change that Kasab would reform and there was no other option than the death penalty. “This man has lost the right of getting humanitarian benefit,” the court observed. The Judge went on to say that Kasab’s showed exceptional depravity. “Keeping such a person alive will be a lingering danger to society,” he said.

Also, the court rejected the arguments that the convict was influenced by Lashkar-e-Toiba. “He voluntarily joined the LeT and was under no duress to do so,” the Judge noted.

After delivering the sentence in English, the Judge translated it in Hindi for the benefit of Kasab. Asked if he had anything to say, Kasab simply shook his head and broke down into tears. After the sentencing, the police took Kasab back to jail. Outside the court, there were scenes of jubilation as hundreds of people burst crackers and burnt effigies of Kasab.

Public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, who argued for the death penalty, beamed victoriously. He came out flashing a victory sign. "I am happy because today even I will be released from Arthur Road Jail," Nikam said while referring to his 15-month-long stint at the special court constructed within the jail premises.

With his trial coming to an end, the authorities will shift Kasab out of the Arthur Road Jail to a location outside Maharashtra till his execution is carried out. Legal experts say Kasab will not be executive immediately as the death sentence would have to be confirmed by the Bombay High Court. KS Pawar, lawyer for Kasab, told reporters after the sentencing that his client had the right to appeal the death sentence. However, a final decision would be taken after he confers with his client. Meanwhile, the family of Assistant Police Inspector Tukaram Omble, who facilitated Kasab’s capture before himself falling to the terrorist’s bullets, has welcomed the sentence. "My father's sacrifice was not in vain,” Vaishali, the slain cop’s daughter, said. Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has also hailed the sentence . “I congratulate the police and the judiciary for the speedy trial.”







Over 300 convicts await death ahead of Kasab
Tribune News Service

A child holds a placard during a rally celebrating the sentencing of Kasab in Mumbai on Thursday. — AFP

New Delhi, May 6
Pakistani national Ajmal Kasab, convicted for the Mumbai carnage today joined the long list of more than 300 convicts, who face a death row and are lodged in various jails across India.

About 52 of these convicts have filed the final appeal that is by way of a mercy petition before the President of India. Some 250 of these convicts are awaiting rulings to their appeals in Supreme Court or the High Courts filed in defence of their death sentences, handed down by trial courts. Some of the cases are more than 15 years old, raising questions as to when would Kasab be actually hanged to Death, as ordered by the Mumbai Special Court today.

In case of Kasab, the death penalty awarded by a trial court will have to be endorsed by the Bombay High Court. The killer will have the option of moving the Supreme Court against it, before finally approaching the President for a mercy plea. Persons, who have filed their mercy plea include, Afzal Guru, the man convicted for the 2001 Parliament attack; Babbar Khalsa ideologue Davinder pal Singh Bhullar, convicted for an attack on Maninderjit Singh Bitta some 15 years ago; and two BKI militants, who assassinated former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh in 1995.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram has already clarified that each case will be decided on the basis of number in the list of such petitioners. Based on such a premise, Kasab's execution may take years to be decided, as people convicted 15 years ago are also awaiting a reply to their mercy plea.

According to the Home Ministry’s fact-sheet on people on death row, a total of 29 mercy petitions, involving 52 condemned prisoners, seeking pardon, under Article 72 of the Constitution are pending. Interestingly, there is no time frame to settle or deal with the mercy pleas of the prisoners awaiting the gallows. Two years ago, the Union Home Ministry has told the Central Information Commission (CIC) in reply to the RTI application. The RTI applicant wanted to know if the government has any time frame and prescribed procedure for the President to take a decision on the mercy petitions.

In the past couple of months, the Home Ministry sent four cases for review to the President, however, there has been no final decision. Presidents, in the past, have usually been sparring in either granting mercy or rejecting the plea to pave the way for an execution.

As Kasab awaits his appeals to be decided in the High Court and the SC, he will join the list of people like Parliamentarian Anand Mohan Singh, former Bihar minister Akhlaq Ahmed and former Bihar legislator Arun Kumar, sentenced to death for lynching IAS officer and Gopalganj district magistrate G. Krishnaiya in 1994.

The others who got death penalties in recent past include a Lakhimpur Kheri petrol pump owner for killing Indian Oil Corporation officer Manjunath Dubey. On the death row ahead of Kasab are underworld don Tiger Memon’s brother Yaqub Memon and 11 others. Their appeal against a Mumbai anti-terror court in December 2006 order is pending in the Supreme Court. They had been convicted for the serial bombing in Mumbai in 1993. Conspirators of Rajiv Gandhi assassination, Murugan, Santhan and Arivu of Tamil Nadu are also waiting a decision on their mercy petition.




But where is the hangman?

Mumbai, May 6
Ajmal Kasab may have been sent to gallows but where is the hangman? Maharashtra does not have a hangman.

The story is the same -- be it in the National Capital's Tihar Jail where the last hanging was carried out in 1989 or in West Bengal which executed Dhananjay Chatterjee in 2004 for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl. Chatterjee was executed by 87-year-old hangman Nata Mullick, who died in December 2009.

Major jails across India face an acute shortage of trained hangmen. Only men are employed for this job and the candidate has to be above 5 feet 4 inches tall. Other than the morbid nature of the job, the meagre salary also acts as a deterrent.

"We had always borrowed hangman from other prisons. Anyone who volunteers for the job can do it. Even if there is no hangman to be found, any police officer from the rank of a constable can do it if he volunteers," a Tihar Jail official said. — PTI





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