New Delhi, Aug 29 (IANS): The Supreme Court today upheld the death sentence of Ajmal Kasab, the only Pakistani terrorist caught alive after the 26/11 Mumbai strike that claimed 166 lives.
"We are constrained to hold that the death penalty is the only sentence that can be given in the circumstances of the case," the apex court bench of Justices Aftab Alam and CK Prasad said.
Kasab, one of the 10 Pakistanis who sneaked into Mumbai on the night of Nov 26, 2008 for a terror siege of the city that ended on Nov 29 afternoon, had moved the apex court challenging the death sentence by a trial court, which was later upheld by the Bombay High Court.
The court rejected Kasab's contention that the Mumbai terror attack was a war against the government of India and not against the Indian state or its people.
The court said the government of India was only the elected organ of the state and the repository of the sovereign powers.
Having said this, the court added: "Primary and foremost offence by the accused (Kasab) was waging war against India."
The apex court did not accept Kasab's plea that not providing him a lawyer soon after his arrest vitiated the entire process, including his trial and consequent conviction and sentencing.
The court said that a trial is vitiated if the accused is not provided with legal assistance but the same does not hold in the case of not providing legal assistance in pre-trial stage.
It also noted that efforts were made to provide Kasab a lawyer but he refused it every time, saying that he did not need an Indian lawyer.
The court also rejected his plea that when he agreed to have legal assistance, his lawyer was not given sufficient time to prepare his defence.
The judgment said that the time given to Kasab's lawyer was "sufficient".
The court also rejected Kasab's plea that his confessional statement before the police was not voluntary.
The judgment said: "Confession was very much voluntary."
In a concurring judgment giving additional reasons for upholding Kasab's death sentence, Justice C.K. Prasad said that it was crystal clear from the oral and documentary evidence that the conspiracy for the 26/11 attack was held by Pakistanis in Pakistan and executed in Mumbai going by the devastation caused.
The court also upheld the acquittal of Fahim Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed who were accused of providing topographical inputs to Kasab and his accomplices prior to the 26/11 attacks.
The Maharashtra government had challenged the acquittal of Fahim and Sabauddin by the Bombay High Court.
The Bombay High Court had upheld Kasab's death penalty Feb 21, 2011.
Kasab was sent to the gallows by a Mumbai trial court May 6, 2010. Besides other charges, he was convicted for waging war against the nation.
An apex court had reserved the verdict on the conclusion of arguments that spread over nearly three months, starting Jan 31.
Kasab and his nine associates who had sailed from Karachi reached Mumbai after they hijacked private Indian ship M.B. Kuber and killed its navigator Amar Chand Solanki.