Yakub Memon, the lone 1993 Mumbai serial blasts convict facing gallows, was hanged to death on Thursday after his last ditch attempts to get a reprieve failed early this morning in the Supreme Court. Memon was hanged shortly before 7am at the Central Jail here, top official sources said.
Earlier, a three judge Bench of the court, which heard the matter for an hour starting 3.30 am, said it would be a “travesty of justice” to stay the death warrant. The Bench said ample opportunities were given to Yakub Memon to avail all remedies before court and executive. The case was heard inside the Supreme Court in what was an unprecedented day for the Indian judiciary.
The denouement came after fast-paced developments the whole of Wednesday when the Supreme Court had upheld the death warrant and President Pranab Mukherjee and Maharashtra governor C.H. Vidyasagar Rao rejecting Memon’s mercy petition. Late in the night, lawyers for Memon changed strategy and rushed to the residence chief justice of India H.L. Dattu and petitioned him for an urgent hearing to stay the hanging on the ground that 14 days time should be given to death row convict to enable him challenge the rejection and for other purposes.
After consultations, the CJI constituted the same three-judge bench that had earlier decided on the death warrant issue to go into the late night plea. Senior lawyers Anand Grover and Yug Chowdhury said that the authorities were “hell bent” on executing Memon without giving him the right to challenge the rejection of his mercy petition by the President as right to life of a condemned prisoner last till his last breath.
Grover said a death row convict is entitled to 14 days reprieve after rejection of mercy plea for various purposes. Opposing Memon’s plea, attorney general Mukul Rohtagi contended that Memon’s fresh plea amounts to abusing the system. A death warrant upheld just 10 hours ago by three judges cannot be quashed, he said, adding that the whole attempt appeared to be to prolong the stay in jail and get the sentenced commuted.
Dictating the order, justice Misra said ample opportunity was granted to the convict after rejection of the first mercy petition by the President on 11 April 2014 which was communicated to him on 26 May 2014. He said the rejection could have been assailed before the Supreme Court. The bench said that “we do not find any merit in the writ petition”. Further, it said while pronouncing the order on Wednesday “we have not perceived any error in the death warrant issued by the Tada court on 30 April for the execution on 30 July.
In the instant case, it is a clear expose of assertion of concept of justice in a totally different backdrop, the court said. The bench said the AG had submitted that at the drop of a hat one can add new challenges and developments and expect the President to act in exercise of power under Article 72 and thereafter on rejection of clemency they would challenge that in a court of law. “We will be failing in our duty by allowing so,” it said.
The court observed that on the first glance the submissions made on behalf of Memon looked attractive but on finer consideration the case of the convict does not carry much weight. Reacting to the order, Grover said it was a tragic mistake and a wrong decision. The AG said the legal process has come to an end and it was not a question of victory.