Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Monday upheld the sentence of Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Amir Kasab for the 26/11 Mumbai attacks aimed at "destabilising" the government.

The High Court, however, upheld the trial court's acquittal of two alleged Indian co-conspirators Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed for want of corroborative evidence.

Showing no signs of remorse, 24-year-old Kasab, clad in a white kurta and sporting a beard came on the screen five minutes before the bench sat and was seen smiling in the Arthur Road jail.

"Aapko sazaye maut yeh adalat barkarar karti hai. Ab aap Supreme Court mein appeal zahir kar sakte hai" (This court upholds your death sentence and you may appeal in Supreme Court)," Justice Ranjana Desai of the division bench also
comprising Justice R V More told Kasab who appeared through video conference.

The judges, dismissing an appeal filed by state government against the acquittal of Faheem and Sabauddin, said, "We agree with the trial court that there is no corroborative evidence to prove their involvement. The evidence of witnesses is not
credible and the main link is missing".

Kasab crime rarest of rare

Upholding Kasab's crime as falling under the rarest of rare category deserving capital punishment, the bench said, "It is rarest of the rare case and is an uncommon crime...there is no scope for reform or rehabilitation and a harsh penalty of death is required. Kasab has never shown any signs of remorse and we also have observed that he has not shown repentance whenever he appeared on video conference".

In its 1208-page judgement, the court also observed that Kasab was not influenced by anyone and that he had applied his own mind and voluntarily joined Pakistan-based terror outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT).

Kasab a fidayeen attacker

"He (Kasab) has a scheming mind and it is concluded that he is a fidayeen attacker and solely responsible for seven murders, including that of ATS chief Hemant Karkare and police officers Ashok Kamte and Vijay Salaskar", the judges said.

The court noted that Kasab, in his confessional statement, made it clear that he wants more 'fidayeens' like him to be created and proclaimed that he wanted to be a role model for others.

"We want those who are desirous of emulating him to know that courts do not take a kindly view of such people. Strong arm of law must deal with Kasab firmly otherwise a wrong signal will be sent that the courts are ineffective in dealing with crimes as serious as this," the judges noted, adding, "Soft handling of a crime like this will erode the public confidence in the efficacy of law."

Kasab conviction on 19 counts

Kasab's death penalty was upheld on charges of criminal conspiracy, waging war against the nation, IPC section related to murder and under sections of Unlawful
Activities (Prevention) Act. The court also upheld his conviction on 19 counts under IPC, Arms Act, Explosives Act, Explosive Substances Act, Foreigners Act, Passport Act and Railway Act.


Court disagrees with defence lawyer

The court disagreed with arguments of defence lawyer Amin Solkar that Kasab was mentally unstable and had committed the crime because he was emotionally disturbed.

The judges said, "He was perfectly sane. He was in proper frame of mind. All his actions, the manner in which he committed the crime, his cleverly trying to change his stand in the court and other attendant circumstances portray a scheming mind and not a mind of a mentally unstable person."


Trial court's acquittal upheld

Upholding the trial court's acquittal of Faheem and Sabauddin, the court observed, "The view taken by Sessions Judge regarding their involvement cannot be called
unreasonable, palpably false, manifestly erroneous and demonstratively unsustainable which merits our interference."

Faheem and Sabauddin must get the benefit of doubt, the bench remarked, adding in an appeal against acquittal unless the view taken by the trial court is totally perverse and unsustainable, it cannot be disturbed.

The judges discarded a portion of Kasab's confessional statement which referred to the involvement of the duo. "We find no difficulty in excluding that part of the confessional statement which refers to the duo's involvement as there is no
sufficient corroboration to that part," they said.

The court also noted that the prosecution has not established beyond doubt the handing over of maps of 26/11 targets by Faheem to Sabauddin in Kathmandu in January 2008.

The court, however, did not agree with the trial court's observation that when maps are available on Google website, it was not necessary for terrorists to carry
hand-drawn maps.

Judgement is historic: Nikam

Describing the judgement as historic, a jubilant Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said he would recommend to the state government moving the Supreme Court against the acquittal of Faheem and Sabauddin.

"Unlike the trial court, the HC has not disbelieved the contention of the prosecution with regard to Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed's involvement in the conspiracy, but upheld their acquittal for lack of corroborative evidence," he said.

(Agencies)

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