The Indian Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence of Ajmal Kasab, the sole surviving gunman of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, however legal experts say it can still take years for the punishment to be carried out.
On Wednesday, the Indian apex court turned down the 24-year-old Pakistani citizen Ajmal Kasab's appeal and said the terrorist must hang.
In May 2010, Kasab was convicted of murder and several other crimes. Kasab was one of the ten gunmen who carried out the coordinated attacks in various parts of India's financial capital Mumbai in 2008, killing 166 people.
"We are constrained to hold that the death penalty is the only sentence that can be given in the circumstances of the case," said Justices Aftab Alam and Justice CK Prasad of the Supreme Court in their ruling.
It could take years for Kasab's sentence to be carried out
The judges also said it was clear from the oral and documentary evidence that the 26/11 attacks had been planned in Pakistan and executed in Mumbai by Pakistani citizens.
The Indian government blames the Pakistan-based Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba for the attacks. Pakistan admits that the terror attacks were plotted inside Pakistan by banned militant organizations. It has put seven Lashkar-e-Taiba suspects on trial to investigate the case.
Legal experts say it is still a long way to go before Kasab's sentence is carried out.
Most Indians have welcomed the court's decision but they demand quick punishment for Kasab.
"Kasab should be hanged without delay," said Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, spokesperson of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. "Those who wage war against India and kill innocent people deserve no mercy."
Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna said the government respected the court's decision. "When the Supreme Court announces a verdict, it becomes law of the land," he said, adding that he hoped Pakistan would also take note of the verdict and act against those who plotted it.
K. Unnikrishnan, father of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, who was killed during the attacks, also welcomed the judgment.
"I request the President (of India) to expedite the punishment and dispose Kasab's mercy petition, if he files one," he said.
A long trial
Many Indians complain that the trial went on for too long and that Kasab should be punished without delay.
In February 2011, the Mumbai High Court upheld the death sentence awarded to Kasab after he was found guilty on more than 80 charges, including murder and waging war on India.
Throughout the court's proceedings, Kasab claimed his trial was "unfair" and said the prosecution had "failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt" the charges against him. He also said that he was brainwashed into committing the crime in the name of God and pleaded that he did not deserve the death penalty because of his young age.
But even Kasab's lawyer Raju Ramachandran admitted that his client had been given the opportunity to present all facts and arguments.
According to the Indian constitution, Kasab can still appeal to the Indian President for clemency.