26/11 was attack on India's sovereignty, says apex court

The Supreme Court Thursday said that the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack was worse than waging a war against the Indian government, as it was targeted at the unity, integrity, and sovereignty of the country.

"To make India a better place, people could wage a war against the government of India. But here you are waging a war against the unity, integrity and sovereignty of India. This is worse," the apex court bench of Justice Aftab Alam and Justice C.K.Prasad told Ajmal Kasab's counsel and amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran.

"You tell us which is more heinous and grave," Justice Alam asked Ramachandran, to which he replied: "If you are asking the counsel for the petitioner, then both are equally serious."

The court observed this when Ramachandran told the court that the exercise undertaken by the courts below was vitiated by taking into account irrelevant circumstances and categorising it as aggravating circumstances, namely waging war against the government of India.

"I may fail to convince your lordship (court) is a different matter, but these acts (committed by Kasab on 26/11) do not amount to waging war against the government as they do not have an extra element of challenging the sovereign authority," Ramachandran told the court.

At this, the court remarked: "You are saying that all the acts attributed to you, including the charge of waging war against the government of India, are taken away, then the balance of exercise undertaken by the trial court and the high court are vitiated."

It said that there are other circumstances against Kasab, including killing and taking people hostage. "They may not be exclusive and may be overlapping."

Noting that all terrorist acts may not be a waging war against the government of India, Justice Alam asked Ramachandran what were the ingredients of that extra element that takes a terror attack in the category of offence of waging war against the government of India.

When Ramachandran told the court that there was a distinction between the act of waging war against the government of India and acts of terrorist violence, Justice Alam asked: "Why should courts look at these incidents with monarchical glasses?"

At this, Ramachandran said that attack on parliament was a terrorist act and also waging war against India.

He said that even in the failure to observe the constitutional safeguards, if the court do not find that Kasab's trial is vitiated, "in such circumstances I will submit that prudence says that death penalty may not be imposed."

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