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The trial of Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving terrorist who was part of the November 2008 attacks on Mumbai, and three others, has ended in a year. The verdict will be read out by the judge ML Tahiliyani on May 3 and so the much-needed closure to those horrific attacks is not far away. The pace of the trial — one year, 191 hearings and 653 witnesses examined by the prosecution — ought to be salutary for courts all over the country. The long and tedious journey to justice in this country has long been our bane and also a matter of shame. By stark contrast, the trial into the 1993 serial bomb blasts in Mumbai took 13 years. It can be hoped that the Kasab trial, as it is known, provides some solutions about how to conduct a meticulous trial without losing the freshness of the evidence due to delays. Justice delayed is justice denied is not just a cliché. In this case justice would have been denied to the people of Mumbai and India had the trial been delayed.


There are 86 charges which were framed against the accused — Kasab, Fahim Ansari and Shahabuddin — which include waging war and criminal conspiracy. The entire trial has been followed by the clamour for immediate justice from some sections of the public. But the government has been firm in its commitment to the foundations of jurisprudence and has shown meticulous concern for a due process, which goes to its credit. Kangaroo courts may appease public sentiment but they cannot be the basis of our judicial process — if we followed them we would be no better than the arbitrary and brutal Taliban or the khap panchayats which have recently been found guilty by the courts.


The trial, however, has not been without its share of controversies. Getting a legal representative for Kasab was a major sticking point at one stage. Public opinion, political parties and the requirements of the law all played a role here. The judge also had to intervene and change lawyers when he was not satisfied with the defence and its methods.


Kasab himself changed his position from guilty to innocent to guilty, which led to some consternation in the public mind about the final outcome of the trial. However, the evidence against Kasab remains, regardless of his own pleas. The maximum penalty which he faces is death. We will only know the verdict when the judge pronounces it. But we can take some satisfaction in the timing and the manner in which the trial was conducted.


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Category Criminal Law, Other Articles by - Raj Kumar Makkad