- Keep it only for rarest of rare cases
- Abolish it
- Broaden rarest of rare to include rape
- Keep it, but use injections
Paving the way for execution of Yakub Memon, the only death-row convict in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case, a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court rejected the petition seeking a stay on his execution, in an early-morning verdict on Thursday.
This implies that Memon will be hanged at 7 am on Thursday, his 53rd birthday.
In an unprecedented move, the Supreme Court building had been opened early morning to hear the petition, and a three-judge Bench of the court, led by Dipak Misra, had started hearing from 3 am the petition filed by lawyers and activists seeking a stay on Memon's execution for 14 days. The petitioners had contended that according to Supreme Court guidelines there should be a gap of at least 14 days between the rejection of mercy petition and the execution.
Memon’s lawyer argued that Memon had the right to challenge the rejection of the mercy plea. He said the earlier mercy plea was filed by Memon’s brother, while the one rejected late on Wednesday was filed by Memon himself. Questioning how the President rejected the fresh mercy plea in such a short time, the lawyer said the nearest legal aid centre needed to be informed about rejection, but that could not be done because it was late night.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said the death warrant upheld just 10 hours ago by the three judges could not be quashed. Terming the fresh plea an act of “abusing the system”, he said: “The game plan is to prolong the stay in jail for years to get the death sentence commuted.” Also, Rohatgi argued it was irrelevant that the earlier mercy petition had been filed by Memon’s brother — it was for Memon just the same.
After the arguments, which ended at around 4:30 am, judge Misra said the execution warrant had been communicated to Memon on July 13. In a 5 am order, he also said that Memon had never disowned the mercy petition filed by his brother which was rejected on April 11 last year. “The review petition was heard for 10 days, whereas the law mandates that only half an hour be given... ample opportunity was given to Yakub Memon to present his case.” Misra further said: “We dont think in a case of this nature, granting further time is necessary... Giving 14 days' time to Memon after rejection of his mercy plea by the President would be travesty of justice.”
Meanwhile, even as the Supreme Court was about to begin the hearing, a police constable had delivered a letter to Memon's brother Suleiman at a hotel in Nagpur, according to an NDTV report. The contents of the letter were not known, but there was speculation that it was a formal intimation to the family that Memon would be hanged at the Nagpur jail at 7 am on Thursday.
This was after President Pranab Mukherjee rejected Memon’s mercy plea late on Wednesday after holding consultations with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Secretary L C Goyal and Solicitor-General Ranjit Kumar. Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court had upheld Memon’s death warrant, and the President’s rejection of the plea meant that Memon could be hanged in Nagpur Central Jail at the scheduled 7 am on Thursday.
Soon after Mukherjee rejected the mercy petition, a group of senior advocates, led by Prashant Bhushan, and activists, had met Chief Justice of India H L Dattu and sought a stay on the execution. According to their plea, an order should have been passed to ask authorities to give Memon 14 days before execution, after rejection of his mercy petition.
After going through their petition, Dattu had referred the matter to judge Misra, who headed the three-judge Bench that had earlier on Wednesday held that all rules had been complied with and Memon had exhausted all legal options available to him.
The judges — Prafulla C Pant and Amitava Roy, besides Misra — first met at Misra’s residence but later decided to hear the plea in the Supreme Court building.