Take Two

The Amusing Mr Nikam

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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...who gives death to those who do not repent

I never say this is my victory. I say that this is a victory of the common man…” “It (India) is not a banana country.” “I don’t believe in tooth for tooth, hand for hand.” Special Public Prosecutor Ujwal Nikam was a bundle of absurd clichés after Ajmal Kasab, sole surviving terrorist after the Mumbai attack, was sentenced to death in the trial court in May 2010. Early this week Kasab’s appeal in the High Court was rejected and Nikam was there again, sporting a tubelight grin in the full glare of television cameras.

What is interesting about Nikam is not this vast repertoire of stock phrases but the absolute pomposity with which he delivers them. It is as if he is always in court talking to the judge. Seeing the man on television, it is hard not to imagine how he would be at the breakfast table—“It must be brought to the notice of the honourable wife that there is sugar wanting in the tea.” But behind this amusing Façade , there is a shrewd prosecuting brain. For this is also the lawyer responsible for 38 death sentences and, according to himself, life sentences for 608 criminals.

And yet, we must ask this question: has Nikam come out so gloriously in this case? Three people stood on trial—Kasab, Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed; and two of them walked free. The only person who was convicted was on national television walking around with an AK 47 and spraying bullets nonchalantly.

There is a not a court in any country in the world which wouldn’t have found Kasab guilty. There is a not a lawyer who couldn’t have secured the conviction. Getting Ansari and Ahmed convicted would have been some work, but there, alas, Nikam’s genius fell short.

Nikam understandably brushes aside such niggles. Instead, speaking to the media, he had this to tell Kasab: “Badle tumne rang bahut, bahut badle nakab; Fansi tak hamne tumhe la hi diya Kasab (you changed colours, you changed masks but I got you to the noose.).” But that was not half as funny as this one: “I asked for the death penalty for Kasab as he showed no remorse even after the trial court pronounced the death sentence.” If only Kasab had broken down into tears and sent a sorry note, Nikam would in his compassion, overriding the blood lust of an entire country and establishment, have single-handedly granted him life. The victorious common man finds it hard not to laugh, Milord.