Hindustan Times (Jalandhar)
Supreme Court rejects Yakub Memon’s petition
1993 Mumbai serial blasts accused files mercy petition before President to snatch reprieve provided by apex court ruling of January 2014
NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a mercy petition by Yakub Memon, who has been on death row for eight years for his role in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case, paving the way for his execution.
Memon was scheduled to be executed on July 30, the day he turns 53, but the hanging may be delayed as he filed a personal mercy petition with the President hours after the Supreme Court turned down his plea. The earlier mercy plea was filed by his brother.
Memon is the only convict sentenced to death for the dozen blasts that ripped through India’s financial capital, killing nearly 260 people at separate landmarks, including the Bombay Stock Exchange, the Air India building and two crowded bazaars.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India HL Dattu dismissed the curative petition from Memon, who was awarded the death penalty in 2007 by a Mumbai court that found him guilty of playing a key role in the bombings.
Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said the state administration was prepared for the execution and there would be no change in the place and date of the hanging.
But legal experts said the state might not be able to execute Memon on July 30 as they would have to give him all possible legal options in line with an a January 2014 Supreme Court verdict that ruled there should be 14-day gap between a rejection of a mercy plea and execution.
Memon, a trained chartered accountant, said in his appeal he was suffering from schizophrenia since 1996 and sought commutation of the death penalty on the ground that a convict cannot be awarded a life term and the extreme penalty simultaneously for the same offence. He also challenged his death sentence on the grounds that while he could be held guilty of conspiracy, he was not involved in executing the blasts.
But the Supreme Court ruled that its judgment which convicted him did not violate the principles of natural justice and he had participated in all the legal proceedings. President Pranab Mukherjee had earlier rejected his mercy petition in May 2014.
Hindustan Times reported last week that the Maharashtra government planned to hang Yakub Memon at the Nagpur jail on July 30 if the Supreme Court turned down his appeal. The state initiated the process to execute him after the top court on April 9 rejected a petition seeking a review of the death sentence by a trial court.
Yakub’s fresh plea for mercy will first be put before the state governor, C Vidyasagar Rao, and will then be sent to the home ministry which will forward it to the President. Memon, who has spent over a decade behind bars, is the younger brother of blasts’ mastermind Tiger Memon who remains on the run.
Underworld gangster Dawood Ibrahim, another key conspirator in the attacks, too, is yet to be caught, while actor Sanjay Dutt is serving time after being convicted of buying weapons from those accused in the blasts. Indian investigators have accused Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI of aiding the plotters, an allegation that Islamabad has denied. Both Tiger Memon and Dawood Ibrahim are believed to be hiding in Pakistan. While others originally charged in connection with the terror strike had their sentences reduced to life imprisonment in 2013, the top court found Yakub Memon to be the “driving spirit” behind the attacks and upheld the 2007 death penalty. The last hanging at the Nagpur jail was carried out in 1984 when two brothers from neighbouring Amravati district were put to death for murder, while the most recent execution in the state was that of 26/11 terror attack convict Ajmal Kasab in 2012 at Pune’s Yerawada jail. The search for a hangman is reportedly on though state government sources say it will not be a problem.