An Indian judge said he would decide on Thursday whether to award death sentence to the only surviving gunman in the bloody 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Judge M.L. Tahaliyani held a sentencing hearing for Mohammed Ajmal Kasab on Tuesday, a day after convicting the 22-year-old Pakistani of murder and waging war against India for his role in the attacks that claimed 166 lives.

Public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam asked for the death penalty, which is rarely handed down in India.

“It would be a mockery of justice if the death penalty is not imposed,” he said.

Drawing on ancient Indian epics, Shakespeare and Urdu poetry in his wide-ranging plea, Mr Nikam said Kasab’s crimes were so heinous they defied language.

“My vocabulary falls too short,” he said. “The only word known to me is ‘mad dog.’”

He said Kasab had enjoyed the act of killing and shown no remorse, making him beyond reform.
“It is better to keep a snake out of the world than in it,” he said, one of many occasions on which he compared Kasab unfavourably with an animal.

Later Mr Nikam drew laughter from the judge and assembled press corps by saying, “I feel the comparison of Ajmal Kasab with a poisonous snake is unjust somewhat towards the snake.”

He also said a death sentence would act as a deterrent to would-be terrorists. A lesser sentence, he said, means India “will continue to remain a soft target”.

He told reporters outside the court that Kasab was “a killing machine and the factory for the killing machine was in Pakistan”.

Defence lawyer K.P. Pawar asked for the minimum punishment of life in prison for Kasab.

In a sometimes inchoate speech, during which the judge corrected him on several points of law and logic, Mr Pawar argued that his young client had fallen under the sway of his terrorist handlers.—Agencies