Take Two

The Ajmal Kasab Death Trap

Madhavankutty Pillai has no specialisations whatsoever. He is among the last of the generalists. And also Open chief of bureau, Mumbai  
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Does it make any sense to hang a man who was on a suicide mission?

Usually, prisoners dig tunnels to escape from jails.  You knew the Kasab trial was not going to be the usual courtroom drama when the police started talking about digging a tunnel to take him from jail to the special court. The peculiarities have since piled on. If one was to believe Abbas Kazmi, Kasab’s erstwhile defence lawyer, then theirs was not exactly a normal client-lawyer relationship. Let alone private meetings, the only time Kazmi got with Kasab was a couple of minutes in court, surrounded by police and journalists, when the terrorist was standing in the dock.

And then, of course, there was the sudden Kasab guilty plea which sprung out of the blue without Kazmi having an inkling. Kazmi had no time to read the 14,000 page chargesheet. That is not surprising. In fact, it would have been astonishing if he had managed in a couple of weeks to wade through material as voluminous as 50 books.

The latest oddity of the case is a defence lawyer being sacked without his client having a say or being consulted.

Last week, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram was on every television show worth its ratings announcing that he was proud that Kasab was being tried in a court of law. Point well taken.

But really, the Kasab trial was decided long before it went to court; in fact, the moment he was taken alive. There could only be one end to this story and that is the absolute certainty that Kasab will be hanged till death. Which court could award him a mere life imprisonment, and if there is a mercy petition to the President of India, we know the outcome. Kasab will die and the only reason he’s alive today is to play his part in the charade.

In the history of Indian law, which hands out the death sentence only in ‘the rarest of rare’ cases, there is probably no other recorded crime that comes even close to the extraordinary nature of Kasab’s carnage. Yet, there is an argument for not killing him. Kasab was part of a fidayeen attack. When he and the nine other terrorists hijacked a fishing trawler and landed on Indian soil, their intention was to die.  Whether it was to savour the promised ‘virgins’ up above or to escape sour poverty down here is immaterial. Kasab’s mission was to die and by awarding him death, the Indian state is fulfilling his wish. From his standpoint, the other terrorists were successful. He’s a failure. The Indian law will help him succeed by hanging him. That’s why a life sentence is the best punishment for him. Which is unthinkable.