For Kasab, it's now a question of when

With the Supreme Court upholding the death sentence for Pakistani terrorist Kasab, lawyers say he is now left with little legal recourse.

Top lawyers opine that the best the convict can hope for now is a delay in the execution of the sentence. There is only a very slight possibility that Kasab could escape the gallows.

"Kasab has a very narrow window to escape the gallows, the reason being that three courts, from the trial court to the Supreme Court, have all given identical judgments of his guilt as also the adequacy of the sentence," says Majid Memon, a well known criminal lawyer.

"Under the Constitution of India, his last resort would be a mercy petition which may take some time," he says.

Senior advocate Aman Lekhi says Kasab could exercise some legal options which could delay the execution of the sentence.

"He has some legal remedies. He could seek a review, after that he could go for a curative petition. He can apply for pardon (mercy petition) and if that is denied, he can challenge the refusal, getting a juridical review again," says Lekhi.

Satya Pal Jain, also the head of Bharatiya Janata Party's legal cell, however, says a review petition may not work in Kasab's favour.

"In criminal matters, there is not much scope for a review petition. The sentence awarded to him is by three courts. He was given 44 months and allowed to exhaust all legal avenues. This shows the fairness of India's judicial system," Jain says, adding, "In his case, a review should not even be allowed."

Many lawyers also said that the sentence should be executed as soon as possible.
"The feelings of the victims of the crime, the Mumbaikars and all Indian people almost unanimously is that his death penalty must not remain a paper punishment.

Let the process of entertaining and disposing his mercy petition, if any, be expedited. Let the death penalty be executed on this heinous offender soon," says Memon.

Lekhi and Jain also say that execution of the sentence may get delayed if political will is lacking.

"Delay is a political practice in this country. Deciding on whether he would apply for a mercy petition or not may itself cause some delay... This proves India is a soft state," says Lekhi.

"After all, the political will to carry out the execution in itself is a big question mark, given how the government functions," he says.

"People are apprehensive that the government may handle the issue in the same manner as that of Afzal Guru," says Jain.

Guru, convicted for the December 2001 attack on Parliament, was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court in 2004. He remains on death row.

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