Mumbai, Feb 21: Pakistani terrorist Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab smiled and grinned as a grim division bench of the Bombay High Court Monday upheld the death sentence awarded to him by a lower court for the Mumbai terrorist attacks. Kasab appeared before the division bench comprising Justice Ranjana Desai and Justice R.V. More through a video-conferencing from his cell in the Arthur Road Central Jail, shortly after 11 a.m.
Kasab walked in nonchalantly, smiling away before the camera as the judges dismissed an appeal filed by his counsel, challenging the death sentence given to him by Special Court Special Judge M.L. Tahaliyani in May 2010. "It is the rarest of rare cases. If he is not awarded the death penalty, then people might lose faith in the judicial process," the bench grimly observed.
The court upheld the four counts on which Kasab was slapped with the death sentence by Special Judge Tahaliyani last May, including the killing of three top Mumbai police officials - former anti-terrorism squad chief Hemant Karkare, encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar and Additional Commissioner of Police Ashok Kamte. A total of 166 persons were killed in the mayhem let loose by Kasab and nine other Pakistani gunmen during the 60-hour Mumbai terror attacks on Nov 26-29, 2008. While Kasab was the sole gunman caught alive, his nine accomplices were killed in the encounter with the combined security officials.
Outside, Ajmal Amir Kasab's lawyer, Farhana Shah, said that her client still has a chance and is likely to appeal in the Supreme Court against the Bombay High Court's order, which upheld his death sentence. "We will go through the judgement and then suggest Kasab on the next course of legal action. It is upto Kasab to decide. The honourable court has given a verdict according to what it thought was right," said Farhana.
"We have to go through the copy of judgement, then decide what to do next. Kasab has a chance and he can appeal in the Supreme Court. High Court said Kasab along with Abu Ismail are responsible for the deaths," she said.
Amin Solkar, the senior lawyer who defended Ajmal Kasab in the 26/11 case, today said it was a challenging job for him to take the brief of the Pakistaniterrorist, whom he frequently found in a "wavering frame of mind".
"I found Kasab in a wavering frame of mind....in the initial stage of every legal interview he appeared to be calm and polite but as it went on he would go wild and just walk off," Solkar told PTI over phone from Seoul in South Korea,where he is on a holiday.
In the first interview, Kasab had expressed his desire to interact with other convicts similarly placed like him and wanted to read about the outside world, which was refused by the court, Solkar said, adding his irritability was possibly the outcome of solitary confinement.
"In one of the interviews, Kasab spoke about his family in Pakistan and then went silent," Solkar said. During arguments, Solkar said he tried to impressupon the High Court that Kasab was not a part of the conspiracy with the other terrorists who were holed up atHotels Taj, Trident and Nariman House during the attacks.
The prosecution had produced recorded telephonic talks between terrorists and their handlers in Pakistan which did not name Kasab although they indicated that others were given instructions on how to proceed in the attack, he said.
"I vehemently put forth that the prosecution evidence produced in the court on attacks at Cama Hospital and Girgaum Chowpatty are very doubtful giving rise to suspicion about Kasab's involvement," Solkar said.
"The most significant part of my argument was that Kasab was not given a fair trial and also that material and important witnesses have been deliberately kept away by the prosecution from the scrutiny of the Court. In such a situation the law speaks of a re-trial and a fair opportunity," Solkar said.
The lawyer said the 26/11 case was very challenging and that he got many leads in formulating the defence for the Pakistani terrorist from the initial arguments of government counsel Ujjwal Nikam.
"This case was a very tough and challenging job as within a short span of time we had to scan and look into 16000 pages of the paper-book to pick holes in the prosecution case.
We were ably helped out by advocates Farhana Shah, Santosh Despande, Husen Shaikh and Yakub Shaikh who took pains to search the voluminuous record and trace judgements to cite".
"We had hardly slept for four hours a day during the entire period of arguments spanning four months. I had to give up other important cases in office and worked from my residence," he said.
On Kasab's U-turns, he said this is nothing new in a criminal trial. "The law permits an accused to change his defence as the trial proceeds. This act seems to be an outcome of some coercion and torture tactics as has been reported in the media," Solkar alleged.
"In the present scenario, the death of our prominent and couregeous police officers Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte and Vijay Salaskar needs to be re-investigated," Solkar said in the light of reports about alleged involvement of right-wing organisations in their killing.
Kasab got up early in the morning, offered prayers and recited verses of the Holy Quran in his cell at Arthur Road Jail."Kasab woke up early today and offered prayers in his cell", jail sources told PTI.
The 24-year-old convict, hailing from Faridkot in Punjab province of Pakistan, appeared on screen before the court through the medium of video conference.
Kasab told his lawyer Farhana Shah on Saturday last that he would hear the verdict through video conference. He also appeared to be nervous and did not talk much, Shah said.