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The 26/11 Judgement fails the maturity test and how we can still salvage justice.

It's surprising how a judgement which has affected so many lives is yet to be made available to the public. After searching online for almost an hour, I gave up. So much for the Indian Judiciary and the age of information. For now we will have to rely on the news outlets to tell us what exactly Judge M L Tahaliyani told the Court room today.


The Special Sessions Court will now be sending the judgement to the High Court for confirmation under Section 366 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. And this will be just the beginning of what is going to be a long appeals process should Kasab choose to appeal. Will he appeal? I'm guessing we're all expecting him to appeal. However, if for some reason he decides not to appeal, does it mean that he repents what he has done? That certainly would be a first time and give us a lot to ponder about.


What is certain is Kasab has a long appeals process ahead of him and probably a longer life that he could have imagined back home. By handing him the dealth penalty, the Court has been unable do justice in the larger sense. This was a brilliant opportunity to lay the foundation for new-age justice. If we have progressed as a civilization on our understanding of human behaviour, it most certainly hasn't been reflected in the judgement. What we have effectively done today is allow Kasab to be used for rhetoric in the next ten - fifteen federal and state elections. 


The 26/11 could have been a great tool is improving our security infrastructure. The events on 26/11 were only possible because of our ineffective security infrastructure. It exposed how the Government was unable to secure what is common hailed as the economic capital of India. We can only imagine how exposed people are in other cities across India. The judgment should have detailed the gross inadequacies of the system at various points. Beginning from entry of the gunmen into the territorial waters, to looking why Kasab's bullet was able to penetrate the "bullet-proof" jacket worn by police officers that day; this was an opportunity for the Judiciary to hold the Government accountable.


The Judgement sounds immature on several counts. First, the Judge orders - "To be hanged by the neck till death." Terrorists are program to kill and be killed, they last thing they fear is the death sentence. For a long time now, it has been known that giving the death sentence will only be used a propaganda by terrorists to motivate future suicide attacks. Secondly, the Judge states that Kasab has no chance of reforming. I feel this is deeply disturbing coming from a Judge who I assume will be involved in other criminal matters. The murderer is a young man of 22. We cannot be certain that Kasab cannot be reformed until we have tried. This judgement kills any room previous judgement might had for the reformist theory. Thirdly, the Judge mentions that he will be a security risk to society. Any well-informed legal actor would know it takes years before a death sentence is carried out. This puts any plans to hang Kasab at least ten years away. He is most certainly not anywhere close to the status of the terrorists exchanged during the Kandahar judgement. Kasab is a foot soldier ( he said there were at least 500 more young men like him where he was trained ) whereas Maulana Masood Azhar et al. were and still are the minds of the whole scheme of things in Pakistan. Next, the Judge said - "The depravity of the (26/11 attacks is unspeakable....this man has lost the right to humanitarian benefits." If the judge was entering into the realm of humanitarian law, he clearly had little idea about it. Even a prisoner of war is given humanitarian benefits. While this statement might have been regarding the death sense that was awarded, it was uncalled for considering this Judgement will play a key role in future terrorism cases. Apart from laying down a bad precedent, it puts a smoke screen on a India that believes in the rule of law.  In summary, the judgement lacks depth and maturity I would expect from a trial of such a magnitude. 


We all know the law says that a murderer deserves to be killed. However, terrorism is a geo-political crime. It doesn't work on the same mental lines of everyday crime. The aim of justice is to deliver closure for the victim and prevent such crimes in the future. Hanging or eliminating terrorists has not worked anywhere till now. It will not change anything. 


No matter how much the India media underlines the fact that Kasab is Pakistani citizen or the latest failed terrorist bid at Times Square was by a Pakistani man, Pakistan will still get aid from the United States for its military and the Indian Government will continue to search for avenues to engage with the Pakisatanis with little success. No judgement can change these two things. And no matter how much we say that this terrorist from Pakistan, Pakistan will continue to exist and like every country, they have their share of good and bad people. To keep harping upon the fact that these terrorist are Pakistanis, we only fail to see the real issue which is that young men like Kasab hate India enough to give away any life they could have lived.  


Kasab gives us an opportunity to try something different. The best example to follow is the al-Munasaha wa al-Islah committee (Advice and Reform) adopted by Saudi Arabia. The program has been specially developed for those involved in terrorist activities and has been largely successful in bringing about reform in their way of thinking. The idea will not be to see if Kasab can be rehabilitated back into mainstream society but into mainstream thinking. This will be worse than the death sentence since it will bring about a significant change in the prisoner. 


We're all on the same page when we want to see him punished, however, I doubt seeing more death will bring closure to the victims and their families. 

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