On expected lines

The conviction of Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving terrorist accused in the Mumbai terrorist attack case of Nov 2008, was not unexpected. It would have been a surprise if he had not been found guilty of the charges against him. It was an open-and-shut case in which there was no doubt about the identity of the perpetrator of the crime nor any paucity of evidence against him. It is not just the killing of 166 innocent people, some of whom died at his hands, that he and others in his murderous gang have been found guilty of. They waged war against the country and acted in full knowledge of the consequences of their action. The quantum of sentence is yet to be pronounced but there is no doubt that the maximum possible punishment will be demanded for him.

While the prosecution succeeded in proving the charges against Kasab, it suffered a serious setback when the court acquitted his alleged Indian accomplices Fahim Ansari and Sabauddin Shaikh of all charges. Their exoneration and the judge’s comment that evidence against them might have been planted amount to a serious indictment of the Mumbai crime branch which investigated the case. The investigating agency has much to answer for this. Thousands of pages of evidence and hundreds of witnesses were examined before the court came to the conclusion that Kasab and other accused persons in Pakistan were guilty. Kasab himself had confessed his guilt though he shifted his position off and on, probably in response to the legal advice he received. He cannot complain that his case went by default, as legal defence, to which he was entitled, was available for him. The fairness of the judicial proceedings was clear to the nation and the international community.

The court’s finding that 20 of the 35 accused, who are in Pakistan, are guilty of conspiracy and collusion with Kasab shifts attention to the trial going on in Pakistan of the Lashkar-e-Toiba leaders and members who were behind the attack. They include Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafeez Saeed against whom, according to the Pakistan government, there is no evidence. India should confront Pakistan with the Mumbai court’s findings against these accused, and try to ensure that the trial which is languishing now leads to their conviction, as in the case of Kasab.

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