Yakub Memon’s pleas rejected, Maharashtra braces for hanging

New Delhi/Mumbai (IANS): Mumbai 1993 blasts convict Yakub Memon seemed set to go to the gallows with the Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissing his petition against his July 30 execution and a fresh plea for clemency being rejected by President Pranab Mukherjee.

However, in a last ditch effort, a group of senior lawyers including Indira Jaising and Prashant Bhushan late Wednesday evening approached Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu with a petition to seeking stay the execution for 14 days even as in Maharashtra, all arrangements were in place for the early morning execution.

Political parties reacted differently to the apex court verdict. The BJP and the Congress said the legal process has been followed concerning Memon, but the AIMIM claimed he was being executed due to lack of “political backing”.

A bench of Justice Dipak Mishra, Justice Prafulla C. Pant and Justice Amitava Roy gave its awaited verdict in the afternoon, saying “issuance of death warrant cannot be faulted with”. Following the court verdict, Maharashtra Governor C.V. Rao rejected Memon’s plea for clemency.

Pronouncing the order after a day-long hearing on the petition by Memon and also a reference by two judge-bench on the appropriateness of another bench that had heard Memon’s curative petition and rejected it on July 21, Justice Misra said “we don’t find any legal fallacy” with the issuance of death warrant by the TADA court.

On the reference, the court said the curative petition that “was decided by the three seniormost judges cannot be regarded as void or inappropriate” in context of the principle that was laid down by this court in an earlier judgment famously known as the Hurra case.

However, Memon, 53, filed a fresh mercy petition before President Pranab Mukherjee which was rejected based on the recommendations of the home ministry. Home Minister Rajnath Singh went to Rashtrapati Bhavan to convey the ministry’s views to Mukherjee.

The Maharashtra government is gearing up to execute Memon at 7 a.m. on Thursday, which is his birthday, at the Nagpur Central Jail. The state government has deployed additional security in and around the jail premises and outside Memon’s residence in Mahim in Mumbai.

Memon and 11 others were slapped with the death penalty by the special TADA court in July 2007 for the 13 serial blasts in July 1993 in which 257 people were killed and 712 were injured. The apex court on March 21, 2013 had upheld Memon’s death sentence while commuting others to life imprisonment. One of the convicts died later.

Memon’s curative petition was dismissed on July 21 by a bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu, Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice Anil R. Dave. Prior to it, Memon — the brother of one of the main absconding accused, Ibrahim alias Tiger Memon — appealed against the sentence in the Bombay High Court, the Supreme Court and later filed a mercy petition with the president, followed by a review petition, and then a second review petition.

The apex court on March 21, 2013, while upholding the death sentence, had said his “deeds can’t be viewed distinct from the act of Tiger Memon, hence, both owe an equivalent responsibility for the blasts”.

Prominent citizens and leaders from four political parties were among around 200 people who on Sunday urged President Mukherjee to reconsider the mercy plea. Those who endorsed the petition included Bharatiya Janata Party’s Shatrughan Sinha, Congress’s Mani Shankar Aiyer, Communist Party of India-Marxist’s Sitaram Yechury, Communist Party of India’s D. Raja, actor Naseeruddin Shah, filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, activist Tushar Gandhi, lawyer Vrinda Grover and economist Jean Dreze.

Reacting to the verdict Wednesday, BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli said: “You have to accept what the Supreme Court has said and it has upheld the entire process”, while Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said: “Terrorism is terrorism and has to be dealt with an accordance with law.”

AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, however, said it was a “fact that Memon surrendered and was not arrested” and cooperated with the investigation agencies.