26/11 case on slow track as government in no hurry

Home ministry says no proposal to deal with terrorist-related mercy petitions separately.

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It’s official now. There will be no fast-tracking of the case relating to Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, the convict in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.

If the response of the ministry of home affairs to a query on hangings and mercy petitions of convicts is any indication, it will be several years before Kasab is sent to the gallows. It stands in contrast to law minister Veerappa Moily’s assertion two months ago that “it’s the rarest of rare case and the time has come we can’t delay the process of the mercy petition”.

“Is the home ministry considering dealing with terrorist-related mercy petitions separately from that of other convicts?” was the specific question posed by DNA to the ministry. The answer was categorical: “There is no such proposal.”

Thus, even if Kasab is held guilty by the Bombay high court and the Supreme Court, and loses all legal avenues available to him, his mercy petition will come at the bottom in the home ministry’s books. And even if the ministry clears his case for hanging, the president’s office will deal with the dozens of cases already pending for a decision first.

The ministry, perhaps for the first time, also disclosed that there were 29 mercy petitions pending before the government for disposal under Article 72 of the constitution. Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru figures among the 29. There are seven other terrorists facing the death sentence.

The home ministry’s response also revealed that out of 29 awaiting gallows, only six are under the consideration of the ministry while the cases of the remaining have been pending with president Pratibha Patil. Patil has been in office close to three years and she has not sent anybody to the gallows yet. In fact, she commuted to life imprisonment the death sentence of R Govindasamy on November 23, 2009.

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