Beyond Kasab guilty verdict, Mumbai attacks reshape Indian law
The guilty verdict announced Monday for Pakistani gunman Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab closed one chapter of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. But the impact on counterterrorism policy is still slowly unfolding.
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One policy that wasn't revived: allowing confessions to the police to be admitted as evidence, which Mr. Gonsalves calls an “obnoxious” measure widely considered to incentivize police brutality.Skip to next paragraph
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A showcase trial
Lawyers like Gonsalves argue that normal criminal laws are adequate to try terrorist suspects.
In Kasab's case, the prosecution would agree. Ujjwal Nikam, the special public prosecutor for the Mumbai terror attacks, declined to use a state antiterror law that would have admitted police confessions as evidence, for example.
“We have enough evidence to do the job with regular laws,” Mr. Nikam says. That evidence is unusually exhaustive – including video and photographic footage, forensic evidence, cellphone transcripts, GPS tracks, and the examination of 658 witnesses – and suggests this case is the exception, not the rule.
Kasab’s trial has also been one of the quickest in a country where speedy trials are not the norm, even under antiterror laws. The trial in a series of bomb blasts in Mumbai in 1993 took 13 years. Another regarding the 1996 bomb blast in New Delhi ended just last week.
“The US still hasn't brought the 9/11 accused to trial,” Nikam emphasizes.
And though Kasab is a Pakistani citizen, he gets the same rights as an Indian, Nikam notes. Indian law makes no distinction between citizens and foreign nationals except in wartime. (Post-9/11 laws in the US, by contrast, permit indefinite detention of foreign citizens labeled “illegal enemy combatants.”)
“With a foreign national, there is a greater responsibility to demonstrate that legal treatment is neither discriminatory nor doubtful,” says Majeed Memon, a prominent Mumbai lawyer who has defended terror suspects. Any thing other than a fair trial would prompt an outcry from longtime rival Pakistan, he adds.
From the beginning, the Indian government has been conscious that this is also a trial for the world, and an opportunity for India to distinguish itself as a democracy (not unlike how some in the US see the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed). In the months following the 2008 attack, many Mumbai lawyers refused to defend Kasab, and those who volunteered were threatened by right-wing activists. Some Indians called for Kasab to be hanged without trial.
But India's home minister P. Chidambaram dismissed that notion.
There can't be "kangaroo courts" in India, he declared.
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