In this Idea Exchange organised by Loksatta, the Marathi daily of The Indian Express Group, Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde details the timeline of events leading to Kasab’s hanging at Pune’s Yerawada Jail. This session was moderated by Girish Kuber, Executive Editor, Loksatta
Girish Kuber: Why was there such a high level of secrecy in the Ajmal Kasab execution operation and why was he hanged ahead of others sentenced to death?
I was appointed Union Home Minister on August 1. In the last four months, only Kasab’s file was put before me. The Home Ministry received the file around the first week of October. We took stock of the case. The file was sent to the President on October 16. On November 5, the President rejected Kasab’s mercy petition. I returned from the Interpol meeting on November 7 and was informed about a top-secret file from the President. Instructions were given to the home secretary to ensure secrecy. Only the top three or four officials in my department were aware of the development. The next day, November 8, we sent the file to the Maharashtra government through a special messenger. There have been earlier instances of a stay order on the execution a day ahead of the actual date of hanging, therefore the secrecy. Also, there were concerns of an attack on the jail or while transporting him. To avoid these, complete secrecy was maintained.
Girish Kuber: The mercy petitions of Afzal Guru and others are still pending. Rajiv Gandhi’s killers have not yet been hanged. Will these cases be decided soon?
I have explained that the only file I got was Kasab’s. Rashtrapati Bhavan has sent back files of seven cases to me. Legal opinion can be sought on those files. Even if Rajiv Gandhi’s killers have been served the death sentence, the matter is subjudice.
Shekhar Joshi: Files of the others, including Afzal Guru’s, were sent back to you. Does it mean that the earlier President did not take any decision related to them?
It does mean that.
Dinesh Gune: Will you relook all the applications sent to you?
We have received letters demanding reconsideration of capital punishment or the death sentence. Thirteen to 14 jurists, former justices of the Supreme and High Court, have written to the President, asking for capital punishment to be abolished. They have suggested that instead, those convicted could be sentenced to life without parole. Recently, at the international