For Kasab, still a long way to the gallows

Terror trial: Mrashtra to appeal against acquittal of Ansari and Sabauddin, says Chavan

On guard: A security person stands guard at the Bombay High Court during a hearing for Ajmal Kasab’s death sentence in Mumbai on Monday. PTIThe terror attacks took place on November 26-28, 2008, and Kasab was captured on the very first night of the mayhem. The trial began in June 2009 and the special court delivered its verdict on May 6, 2010.

From there, the matter went to the high court. Under legal procedures, any death penalty awarded by a sessions court must be confirmed by the high court which gives the state as well as the convict an automatic chance to argue their cases.

The high court began day-to-day hearing of Kasab’s appeal from October 19. Barring the Diwali vacation and a brief closure during Christmas, the high court sat for 122 days to hear arguments of the state and Kasab.

A  division Bench comprising Justices Ranjana Desai and Ranjit More reserved its order on January 14 and the judgment was delivered on Monday, almost nine months after the special court delivered its verdict.

Kasab can now file move the Supreme Court. Once an appeal is filed before the apex court, there will be another round of arguments by both the sides before a final judgment is delivered. This may take nine months to a year, legal experts say.

If the decision goes against Kasab, which most certainly will, then he can approach the President of India for pardon.

“Under the Constitution, every Indian has a right to move the Supreme Court and seek presidential pardon. This right is also available to a foreigner,” said lawyer Ejaj, who defended Fahim Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed.

In the case of Sabauddin and Fahim Ansari, who were acquitted by the high court on Monday, the procedure would commence with the state government, which will now challenge the acquittal in the Supreme Court. If Kasab files a mercy petition to the President, he will then be the 30th death row convict awaiting presidential pardon.
The last time a mercy petition was rejected by the President was that of Dhananjoy Chatterjee, who was executed in 2004 in Kolkata. He had raped and murdered a 14-year-old girl.

But the most publicised mercy petition has been of Parliament attack case convict Afzal Guru, who remains lodged in Tihar Jail as his plea is being examined by the Union Home Ministry and the Delhi government.

The mercy petitions of three assassins of Rajiv Gandhi are pending with the President.
Kasab will be one of the 309 prisoners in the country awaiting execution. If hanged, he will become the 56th convict to go to gallows.

There is the  unique example of one Ravji of Rajasthan who was hanged in less than three years after committing the crime. Even his mercy petition was rejected by the President within six days. He had murdered all his family members on May 6 and 7, 1993, and was hanged on May 4, 1996.

Of course, all this can change if Kasab decides not to appeal the verdict. If he chooses not to appeal Monday’s decision, the state government will move for his execution.

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