Is the Kasab verdict a victory for India’s judiciary?
Almost a year and a half since the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, Ajmal Kasab, the lone gunman captured during the three-day rampage, has been sentenced to death by a special court.
“He shall be hanged by the neck till he is dead,” Judge M.L. Tahilyani said at a special court as Kasab sat with his head bowed, occasionally wiping his eyes with the back of his hand and then covering his ears with his fingers.
The judgement was hardly surprising given the accused pleaded guilty during the course of the trial (although he later retracted) and more than 650 witnesses testified against Kasab, backed by video grabs of him walking around the attack site with an AK-47 rifle in hand.
Add to that intense public pressure for awarding the harshest punishment possible and the fact he is from Pakistan, India’s traditional enemy, the verdict was more or less a given.
The speedy trial, hurried by public pressure and overwhelming evidence, is also a victory for India’s notoriously slow judicial system.
The verdict came within a year after court proceedings against Kasab, compared to a 14-year trial in the 1993 serial blasts case in the same city.
Surprisingly, two Indian nationals accused of being members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and of conducting reconnaissance in Mumbai before the attack, were acquitted of all charges because the judge felt the evidence against them was weak.
But this only shows the fairness of India’s judicial system, some commentators say.
But a few pertinent questions remain -
1. Were the security agencies able to extract enough information from Kasab regarding his handlers during custody?
2. The verdict is a direct indictment of Pakistani involvement in the attacks, so will it have any bearing on the country’s ties with Pakistan?
3. Will the judgement finally provide much-needed closure for families of the victims, and for the country?
4. Should India now train its guns on the masterminds of the Mumbai attacks, Kasab’s alleged handlers in Pakistan, even though the prime ministers of the two countries asked their officials to take steps to normalise relations just days ago?