Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab is to be hung by the neck until he is dead. I think it will be a mistake to hang Kasab. No, I’m not saying it’s wrong to hang him. No, only that it will be a mistake. There are instances where the death penalty may be justified. In August 2004, Dhananjoy Chatterjee was hanged in Kolkata after he was convicted of the rape and murder of a schoolgirl, a punishment I feel was justified.
In my opinion, the ideal punishment for Kasab would be to imprison him for life. No, I am not saying that he should be given a ‘life sentence’ of 14 years, as life sentences under the Indian Penal Code go. I would like to see Kasab put in prison till he dies of natural causes. I would like to see the tax payer’s money spent on keeping Kasab alive. If Kasab catches pneumonia, he should be given medicines to cure him. If Kasab sprains his ankle while doing callisthenics in the prison yard, he should be allowed to wrap his ankle in a bandage. If Kasab catches diarrhoea as a result of the prison diet, his stool sample must be tested for pathogens and he should be given the appropriate antidote. Kasab should be in solitary confinement for most of his lifetime sentence, but he should be allowed to mingle with the rest of the inmates once in a while so that he doesn’t go insane. Kasab should be allowed periodic access to newspapers and journals, especially from his home country Pakistan, so that he knows what he’s missing.
Kasab came to Mumbai to kill people until he was himself killed. His handlers in Pakistan wanted him and all his comrades to die so that there would be no evidence linking Pakistan with the Mumbai assault. Kasab succeeded in his first objective. He was a killing machine indeed. Men, women and children perished even as he laughed and sprayed them with bullets. However, his second objective, to get killed and become a martyr, remains unfulfilled. Is there any reason why he should now be allowed by the law to succeed?
Killing Kasab will make a martyr of him. Imprisoning him for the rest of his life will set an example to his ilk.
Added Note (11 May 2010): My desire to see Kasab kept alive in prison for the rest of his life does not blind me to the fact that even if the judge wanted to award such a punishment, he could not have done so in the absence of an amendment to the Indian Penal Code 1860 (IPC). There is a crying need to modify the IPC so that judges have the option of awarding “Imprisonment for Life” as a punishment rather than having to choose between imprisonment for 14 years and a death sentence.