Kasab’s Sentence: After Mumbai Terrorist, Should India Abolish the Death Penalty?

The Indian Supreme Court upheld a death sentence for the sole surviving assailant implicated in the deadly 2008 Mumbai terror attack. But there are many who hope he is the last to be executed.

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Rafiq Maqbool / AP

Activists of Shiva Sena shout slogans as they celebrate after India's Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of Mohammed Ajmal Kasab Kasab, the only surviving gunman of the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks in Mumbai, India, Aug. 29, 2012.

On Wednesday, India’s top court upheld the judgment of the Mumbai High Court that Ajmal Kasab, the sole surviving gunman in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, should hang to death. The Supreme Court charged Kasab with waging war against the nation — a crime that carries the death penalty in India — and said it had no option but to uphold the earlier judgment. Kasab was among ten men who carried out attacks on key Mumbai landmarks including two hotels, a railway station and a Jewish center, killing 166 people on November 26, 2008. The court turned down Kasab’s main defense that he was not given a fair trial. “Not providing counsel to Kasab by the government at pre-trial stage,” the judgment read, “does not vitiate his trial in the case.”

Kasab’s conviction was based on the now-infamous video footage of him striding along the Chhatrapati Terminus in Mumbai, an AK-47 in his hand and a backpack slung casually on one shoulder. In February 2009, over a year after the carnage, Indian investigators filed an 11,000-page charge sheet against him for murder, conspiracy and waging war against the nation. The first death sentence against Kasab was pronounced in May 2010, 18 months after his capture, by a lower trial court in Mumbai, and upheld by the Mumbai High Court in October last year. At the time, the Mumbai High Court rejected Kasab’s defense plea that he was mentally unstable. “He did not appear to be repentant at all. He was perfectly sane,” the court said at the time. “In some cases, the harsh penalty of death is necessary to warn those who may want to take a similar path … Soft handling of a crime like this will erode the public confidence in the efficacy of law.” The 25-year-old terrorist appealed to the Supreme Court in February to convert the death penalty to life imprisonment.

MORE: The Making of a Mumbai Terrorist

After today’s ruling, India now has more than 400 people on death row. And while the government has been slow to carry out those sentences — the last execution was in 2004, when a former elevator man was hanged for raping and murdering a 14-year-old girl in Kolkata — it has also been immune to demands from both domestic and international human rights groups for the punishment’s abolition. In December 2007, India was among the few countries that voted against a moratorium on executions at the United Nations General Assembly along with Pakistan, China, and the U.S., among others.

The debate over the death penalty in India can be traced back to 1937, when Mahatma Gandhi wrote that he considers a “death sentence as contrary to ahimsa [non-violence]” and that “a murderer would be sent to a penitentiary and there given a chance of reforming himself.” But the law was enshrined in the Constitution nevertheless, and in 1967, a report of the Law Commission on Capital Punishment effectively ended what legal debate had been happening. Set against the backdrop of several private member bills for abolition of the death penalty throughout the 1950s and 60s the report noted that because of the “paramount need for maintaining law and order … India could not risk abolishing capital punishment.” Later, in the 1980s, the Supreme Court restricted the use of the death penalty by defining it as punishment for the “rarest of the rare” cases, a practice which the court maintains today.

A 2008 report by Amnesty International, India and Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Tamil Nadu & Puducherry claimed that the “death penalty in India has been an arbitrary, imprecise and abusive means of dealing with crime and criminals,” and recommended further investigation leading to an informed debate on the issue and “while this is ongoing, a moratorium on executions.” Law minister Salman Khurshid recently disclosed his personal view that the “death penalty should be abolished,” but acknowledged that “incidents of terrorism have detracted debate on the issue.” Vijay Hiremath, a lawyer who practices at the Bombay High Court says that “it’s unfortunate what happened on 26/11, but death penalty cannot be the solution. Let’s not forget that our security system also failed in letting these attackers to reach India.”

MORE: Pakistan-India Tensions Mount Over Mumbai Terror

Today’s ruling is unlikely to come as a huge surprise to many in Pakistan, where Kasab was from, as the case has been in progress for four years. The verdict may, however, figure prominently in the dialogue between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on the sidelines of the Non Alignment Movement’s (NAM) meeting in Tehran on Thursday. “Most people in Pakistan are reasonably convinced about the evidence that is on the public domain and presented through the judicial process,” says C. Uday Bhaskar, a Delhi-based political analyst. “The so-called extreme right wing [in Pakistan] may however see this as a point for rally.”

Meanwhile, in Delhi today, the mood was more of vindication than protest. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party was blunt in its reaction when they said “Kasab should be hanged without any delay. Enough biryani for him.” After losing his plea at the Supreme Court, Kasab can now appeal for presidential clemency. But it might be years before a final decision is reached. Any presidential pardon is taken in consultation with the council of ministers. With politicians across the board clamoring for a quick execution of Kasab’s sentence, it is unlikely that President Pranab Mukherjee, an astute politician from the embattled, ruling Congress party, will risk the uproar.

MORE: Pakistani Involvement in the Mumbai Attacks

PHOTOS: The Mumbai Terrorist Attacks

28 comments
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N_Jayaram
N_Jayaram

It would be good if the Kasab issue is put on the back burner for now until India can attain the maturity to proceed towards a moratorium, in preparation for abolition of the death penalty.

No state, no government, should kill anyone who is in its custody.

Sonali Barua
Sonali Barua

To me people who support the AFSPA are no better than mass murders.

sanju_baba
sanju_baba

I wonder on what basis the so called "human rights" group is ACTUALLY defending such a person who has in his sane mind MURDERED amp; TAKEN innocent lives

By doing this is the human rights group sending a message to others telling them " hey you know what...you can actually get away with MURDER.....infact we will help you !!!

sanju_baba
sanju_baba

On what basis are the so called "human rights"  group defending a person who with his sane mind MURDERED amp; TAKEN innocent human lives.

Being "soft" with such guilty people will send a LOUD amp; CLEAR message to others who are walking down that same path, especially once they realize that they can "get away" with MURDER.

I don't think the human rights group is being fair at all to the people who are on the receiving end.

Virender Singh Rawat
Virender Singh Rawat

the writer of the article appears to be a Indian by name , may be a resident of US and on the pay roll of Time(read western powers) so he has no choice but to write what is dictated to him. Such nonsensensical article could have made a differance earlier but not now. I am extremely sorry your efforts are all down the drain.

BunnyOle
BunnyOle

EVERY country on earth should have the death penalty.  I am sick of having to pay to feed and house and support the most disgusting subhuman scumbags who never deserved to live.  That is total bull.  

The planet is overcrowded, there are people out there DAILY raping and murdering children.  EVERY DAY hundreds if not thousands.  There are people being burned alive.  There are children being murdered by their worthless parents.  ALL of these people should just DIE.

sick_of_pc123
sick_of_pc123

Has there been a major act of terror in India since these people were placed on death row?  My bet is that terror will make a comeback if the death penalty goes

Karthick Raghavan
Karthick Raghavan like.author.displayName 1 Like

The man was prepared to die when he laid his hands on an AK-47 and set foot on Indian soil.. do you really think he fears death now? This is a farce. He is making a fool out of the Indian Judicial System and all you Human Rights hippies are dancing to his tune. 

Seshagiri Rao Devaguptapu
Seshagiri Rao Devaguptapu like.author.displayName 1 Like

I think India needs to keep this deterrent punishment now. It is a norm to break a rule in India than obeying it. This type of extreme punishments have to be dispensed quickly. This labyrinthine red tape delay should be cut short. This guy who killed with impunity to the chagrin of his masters should not even have a trial. There are hundred witnesses and the country has seen him doing it. This an act of subversion tactics of Pakistan on India. The SMS originated from pakistan recently which caused exodus of NE people is one of the many they have done to us. So this is not the time to abolish the death penalty. Keep it on.

Seshagiri Rao Devaguptapu
Seshagiri Rao Devaguptapu

I think India needs this death penalty and it has to be executed as soon as the SC verdict. The indiscipline in the country is so much and breaking a rule is a norm, only extreme punishments will deter and if they are dispensed quickly. 

Avi_bhat
Avi_bhat

Dear Time, please stick to the US and dont preach to us what we need to do in India! First abolish death penalty in india and then preach to the world

Debbie Ledford
Debbie Ledford

I have a problem with the government having the power to kill it's citizens. However, I have a bigger problem with people killing other people especially in terror attacks. I think that execution mills like what is going on in Texas are deplorable. Like Adam I feel that we need to be absolutely certain that the killer is a killer and when there is no doubt and only then, yes execute them in the manner that they took out their victim.

BunnyOle
BunnyOle

You are SO IGNORANT and FULL OF BRAIN WASH PROPAGANDA YOU MAKE ME vomit.  EXECUTION MILL, do you even know what you are talking about?  

There have only been SEVEN people executed in Texas in 2012.  HOW IS THAT A MILL?  

If you had ONE IOTA of what the TOTAL FILTH being executed in Texas were guilty of, you would SHUT YOUR MOUTH.   

8/7/2012Marvin WilsonAbduction and murder of a 21-year-old man.7/18/2012Yokamon HearnAbduction, murder, and robbery of a 26-year-old man.4/27/2012Beunka AdamsMurder of a man during the course of abduction, rape, and robbery.3/28/2012Jesse HernandezMurder of a 10-month-old child in his care.3/7/2012Keith ThurmondMurder of his estranged wife and her boyfriend.2/29/2012George RivasMurder of a police officer while on escape from prison.1/26/2012Rodrigo HernandezRape and murder of a 38-year-old woman.

Execution mills are what is happening in IRAN and other muslim countries where Christians, rape victims, and gay teenage boys are executed.  15 yr old girls are executed for 'chastity' crimes and one teenage girl, arrested for 'bad hijab' cursed at the judge and was sentenced to death.  He placed the noose around her neck himself. 

http://www.iranhrdc.org/englis... 

Here is a list of just KNOWN executions and there are plenty more we don't know about, plus Ahmadinejad amp; the current Ayatollah made the pronouncement that all female prisoners sentenced to execution should be raped before execution to make certain they do not reach paradise.  In face, any prison guard who rapes the women are guaranteed the same blessings they would receive for making making HAJ, the mandatory trip to Mecca required of all muslims.   If a female prisoner is not sentenced to death, then if a guard rapes her he only receives 'minor' blessings.  

AND YOU HAVE THE NERVE TO COMPLAIN ABOUT TEXAS for executing a handful of filthy rape killers?

YOUR IGNORANCE SICKENS ME. 

u
u

the Death Penalty helps lower Indian population. You know Indian with their small penises breed like rats.

Sonali Barua
Sonali Barua

The AFSPA kills more innocent Indian citizens than the death penalty ever had in India. 

Kichwa Tembo
Kichwa Tembo

you have been reading and hanging out too much with Arundhati Roy and the likes. Take your flower power ideology back to your gora masters who may or may not accept you after you beat up on people of your own ethnicity.

Sonali Barua
Sonali Barua

No. I have witnessed it personally. And I have lived with the terror. The AFSPA is a law that is a human rights violation. Arundhati who?

m.joey15
m.joey15

I understand your anger. If any wrong is committed, responsible should be brought to justice. But before you take your crazy brush and paint an entire organization that protects our country from our 'friendly' neigbours and haters who inhabit India, as sociopaths, think twice. You dont sound like a patriot. You are ignoring all the sacrifices made by our soliders, who give up their lives while people like you sit on your couches and spout venom. Don't insult the entire Armed Forces. There are people who die for  protecting you and me.  If you want to help someone who has been a victim, do something about it.

Vnket
Vnket

Right and first also find a cure to cancer and abolish the motor vehicle since it kills more people than the death penalty and your favorite AFSA. This is ridiculous. 

Yesterday I saw some human rights junkie like yourself on Indian TV who was on the verge of tears trying to save this devil who killed 20-30 people - women and kids in cold blood. These people - the rarest of the rare - cases are not humans they are worst than rabid dogs and there is only one way to deal with them. I would rather be more merciful to the innocents who would be threatened by these monsters if they are allowed to live. 

Sonali Barua
Sonali Barua

The AFSPA is a law that Indian Armed forces use to kill INNOCENT INDIAN citizens. The death penalty is used to kill murders and sociopaths. The fact that you can't make a distinction between the two is kind of telling. Get an Education. And then get a heart. 

BunnyOle
BunnyOle

AGREED, i would gladly kill them myself if they need to hire someone.  It is DISGUSTING that ridiculous people weep over the death of people who would probably kill the weepers if they had the chance, or their kids.

Sonali Barua
Sonali Barua

Before India abolishes the death penalty, they need to consider abolishing the AFSPA. It makes no sense that the Indian state  shouldn't have the right to take a citizen's life, but the Indian Armed forces has the right to take your life with no trial and no questions asked under this act. AFSPA is  used by the Indian armed forces to kill Indian citizens. Apparently an illegal Paki terrorist has more rights in India than the Indian people  from the North East or Kashmir. This is  complete nonsense. The fact that this blatant racism exists and goes unmentioned  is appalling.

manofsan
manofsan

 It's not AFSPA that's at fault, it's the ruling govt and their political agenda, which is wedded to the interests of a particular (extra-territorialist) community. All other communities are left at their mercy. The AFSPA is merely meant to protect the armed forces, since the military can't be turned into beasts of burden and sacrificial lambs. It's the ruling politicians who are at fault, not the army.

Sonali Barua
Sonali Barua

Give me a break. The Indian Army has raped and looted and KILLED with Impunity (thanks to this law )the local people in Kashmir and North East. They are NOT sacrificial Lambs. Shame on the Indian Armed forces. They are nothing but mass murdering sociopaths. 

m.joey15
m.joey15

You are crazy. No patriot will ever call the Indian Armed Forces as sociopoaths.  Leave the country if you dont like us. If any solider does anything wrong, they should be brough to justice like anyone else. If you want to do something to help a victim, do it. You can't take your crazy brush and paint the entire Armed Forces black. Armed Forces protect people like you and me, they sit on glaciers protecting our borders while you sit on your couch and spout venom. Soldiers are mercilessly killed by the insurgents. They have families too. Think about it.

manofsan
manofsan

You're the sociopath and the mentalcase. Any incidents of rape and loot are completely isolated incidents. As for killing, there's an insurgency war going on, and it's the separatist fanatics who have brought death with their terror campaign. Armies don't just show up on a whim, but as a response. You've obviously never heard of Politique Du Pire, or are willfully blind to the concept. If it were upto me, the entire province should be evacuated, so that the area can be cleared through search-and-destroy missions.

Ronnie Coleman
Ronnie Coleman

they want to let a rapist and murderer and child molester live? how ridiculous. im liberal and i find this absurd. once criminals do such a heinous act, they deserve no mercy. kill them.

Adam
Adam

I agree death penalty may sometimes punish someone who can later be found not guilty - but for open shut cases like this - especially when it is SO EXPENSIVE to keep these idiots in prison, i prefer the death penalty ...