Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.
And although the cost of keeping Ajmal Kasab alive through interrogations, jail terms, sentences, appeals and counter appeals has according to this report, already cost the state of Maharashtra an estimated Rs 35 crore, at the end of the day justice was seen to be done.
While excruciatingly slow and frustrating, India’s decision to go through the entire legal process before finally deciding that Kasab should hang, has cemented India’s status as a democracy that does not believe in kangaroo courts and mob justice.
In the aftermath of the horrific 26/11 Mumbai attacks, all eyes were on India, and perhaps even more so when it transpired that Kasab had been caught alive. India has taken the trouble to conduct and ensure, that it believed in a proper justice system and would deal with attacks against its people according to the law.
And this makes the Supreme Court decision to uphold his death sentence all the more powerful, sending out a strong message that terror attacks like 26/11 will not be tolerated again.
Speaking after the decision was made, prosecuting lawyer Gopal Subramanian said, “Ultimately this is a case which illustrates the due process of law and rule of law under the constitution. I feel proud that Indian courts do not allow a man to be punished until he is found guilty beyond a doubt”.
And so we all should be.
That said however, it is now important that the sentence is expedited quickly because justice has also has to be seen to be done by the Indian public. It is imperative that gloomy predictions like this one, that Kasab would most probably be a middle aged man by the time he is hung, costing the state about Rs 100 crore, do not come to pass.
Kasab’s next step is to file a petition to the President for mercy. India has proved that notionally at least, even terrorists get the chance for a fair trial. But it must not dilute this due process by unnecessarily delays.