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New Delhi : Moving with unprecedented speed on the mercy petition of 26/11 terrorist Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, the Centre has sent a recommendation to President Pranab Mukherjee that the mercy petition be rejected since Kasab is guilty of a heinous and dastardly terror attack on Mumbai.

The Centre and Delhi government had taken five years to process the mercy plea of Parliament attack accused Mohammad Afzal, whose mercy plea is still pending with the President, six years after Afzal had filed it. However, the home ministry took just two weeks to process the case of Kasab after it received a communique from the Maharashtra government, earlier this month, containing an advice from the Maharashtra governor that Kasab's mercy petition be rejected.

Last week, MHA forwarded this file to the President, seconding the recommendation of the state government that Kasab deserves the noose. Effectively, Kasab's mercy plea has reached the final stage at the President's table within a month of him filing his plea on September 18, after SC upheld his death sentence on August 29.

The Delhi government took four years to finalise its view on Afzal's mercy plea before sending its recommendation to the home ministry on June 3, 2010, after being served 15 reminders on the file. Then, the home ministry sat on Afzal's file for another 13 months and finally submitted its advice to the President to reject Afzal's plea on July 27, 2011. The President's Secretariat has been sitting on the Afzal file since.

The speed shown in Kasab's case was evident in only one other case - of the last terrorists sent to the gallows, Satwant Singh and Keher Singh, assassins of prime minister Indira Gandhi, whose mercy pleas were rejected within 70 days. The two were hanged a little over 4 years after the assassination, in January 1989.

BJP said the speed shown by the government in Kasab's case exposed the government claims of following a queue when it came to cases like that of Afzal. "Kasab's case shows that if the government wants to process a mercy plea quickly, it can very well do it. This also exposes the Centre's defence of following a queue to keep Afzal's case pending for years now. The logic of following a queue should not apply to terrorists...," BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar.

The government prosecutor in the 26/11 case, Ujjwal Nikam, has appealed to the President to decide on Kasab's mercy plea before November 26, the fourth anniversary of the attacks. "That would be a homage to the victims. Considering the dastardly terror act of Kasab, the President can immediately decide on the mercy plea on an urgent basis as there is no queue system at the President Secretariat though there is a debate that there are other long pending mercy petitions. The point that state government and Centre has spoken in one voice to recommend rejection of Kasab's plea is a positive indication," Nikam over phone from Mumbai.

Mukherjee is bound by the Centre's advice to reject Kasab's mercy plea but he has the choice to send the file back for reconsideration. Sources say Mukherjee now has the tough choice of which file to dispose off first - Mohd Afzal or Ajmal Kasab who happen to be the only two terrorists among the 17 people whose mercy petitions are pending before the President.

The mercy petition of another terrorist, Balwant Singh Rajoana, for assassination of Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, is pending before the UT of Chandigarh. A government official said the Centre was not in favour of accepting mercy pleas of any terrorist and that explained the decisions last year from the President to reject the mercy pleas of Khalistani terrorist Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar and the three assassins of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, Murugan, Santhan and Arivu.

However, all four have gone to SC challenging the rejection of their mercy pleas, saying there was an inordinate delay of over a decade in deciding their mercy petitions. "The government does not want any such delay in Ajmal Kasab's case and hence the expeditious processing," a home ministry official said.
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