Bombay HC verdict on Kasabs fate on Monday

Mumbai:  The Bombay High Court will deliver its verdict on the fate of Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab on Monday, nine months after he was pronounced guilty of perpetrating the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack and sentenced to death.

The division bench of Justices Ranjana Desai and R V More, apart from pronouncing the judgement on confirmation of death sentence to Kasab, will also deliver its verdict on Maharashtra government`s plea against the acquittal of two Indians accused of aiding in commission of the crime.

Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed had been acquitted by the trial court on May 6, the day it held Kasab guilty and ordered him to be sent to the gallows, on the ground of "doubtful evidence".

The duo was charged with drawing maps of targets and giving them to Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba. The LeT handed over these maps to Kasab and nine other terrorists who landed in Mumbai from Karachi by sea to unleash terror. One such map was recovered from the pocket of terrorist Abu Ismail, who was killed.

 Besides confirmation of death penalty to Kasab, the court also heard an appeal filed by him against his conviction in the diabolic attacks on November 26, 2008 that left 166 dead and many more injured.

During the arguments, Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam termed the attack as an "act of state-sponsored terrorism" executed by LeT with the aid of Pakistan`s security establishment.

The thrust of Nikam`s arguments was that the conspiracy was hatched in Pakistan with an express intention to destabalise India, wage war against the country, terrorise its citizens, create financial losses and issue a warning to nations whose people were targeted in the attacks.

Justifying death sentence to Kasab, Nikam said the strikes were outcome of a single conspiracy hatched by LeT.

Kasab and his accomplices were instructed by LeT handlers on telephone to hold as many hostages as possible to demand from the Indian Government liberation of Kashmir and creation of a separate state for Muslims, Nikam contended in support of the charge of "waging war against the nation".

"With this objective in mind, Kasab and his team mate Abu Ismael had headed towards Malabar Hill area, where VIPs such as High Court judges, ministers and governor reside, to hold VIPs as hostages to fulfill their demands," Nikam said.

Nikam argued the trial court had erred in partially accepting the confession of Kasab made before a Magistrate which should have been accepted in toto. Kasab`s act of retracting his confession was an "after-thought" and "well-advised".

In the appeal, Kasab argued police had staged a false encounter at Girgaum Chowpatty on November 26, 2008, to implicate him in the crime. He even denied having killed Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare, IPS officer Ashok Kamte and encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar during the attack.

Kasab`s lawyer Amin Solkar relied on the observation of trial court that bullets recovered from bodies of Karkare and Salaskar did not tally with weapons of Kasab and Ismael although bullets in Kamte`s body matched with Ismael`s rifle.

Kasab appeared in the High Court on screen through video conference only on few occasions. Once he spat at the camera and told the judges that he wanted to be tried in a US court. However, he did not elaborate.

The High Court twice viewed the CCTV footage showing Kasab and his companions in terror acts.

Alleging that police had suppressed material evidence about CCTV footages to nail Kasab, Solkar said some CCTV cameras installed at CST station had captured two terrorists attacking people but only one footage was shown to the court while the rest was "suppressed for reasons best known to prosecution".

Even this footage did not show the faces of Kasab and his partner clearly, Solkar argued.

Solkar claimed Kasab was not among the two terrorists who attacked CST and that his photographs produced by the prosecution to substantiate the charge were morphed.

Terming Kasab`s trial as "unfair", he demanded a fresh trial claiming that important witnesses were not examined, material evidence was suppressed and norms not followed in appointing lawyers to defend him.

Kasab disputed prosecution`s story that he had landed along with nine others in a dinghy at Badhwar Park on the day of the attack, saying the evidence was concocted to frame him in the 26/11 case. The dinghy was so small that it could not have accommodated 10 persons along with their baggage.

Kasab said he had come from Pakistan much before November 26, 2008, by Samjhauta Express to Delhi and later arrived in Mumbai to watch Hindi films. He was arrested at the Juhu beach and was in custody when the attacks took place.
Meanwhile, security has been tightened in and around the High Court and special passes have been issued to the media for entry to courtroom 49.