A controversy erupted on Sunday over the purported communication from the Centre to the family of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru about the decision to hang him on Saturday with the family alleging they had come to know about his hanging from TV channels and Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah joining the criticism.
Though Union home secretary RK Singh had on Saturday said tersely that the family of Guru, a resident of Sopore in North Kashmir, was sent a communication through speedpost, the family claimed having not received any such communication raising questions as to whether there was a serious effort to inform the family.
"Guru's family was informed about the decision of the Government that his mercy petition has been rejected. This was done through speedpost," Singh had said. The 43-year-old death row convict was hanged at 8am and buried in Tihar jail on Saturday in a secret operation.
Omar also questioned the rationale of informing Guru's family through post saying the reliability of the medium itself was questionable. "If we are going to inform someone by post that his family member is going to be hanged, there is something seriously wrong with the system," he said.
The chief minister expressed concern about his government having been informed about the execution just 12 hours in advance and said he was hurt that the family of Guru had not been informed in due time.
Omar said it was a "tragedy" that Guru was not allowed to meet his family before he was hanged and not allowed a "final farewell"
Omar said his government could have arranged a state government plane to take Guru's family to Delhi for meeting the death row convict before his hanging.
On Guru's family not allowed to meet him, Omar said, "I cannot reconcile myself to the fact that his (Afzal) family was not allowed to see him before he was killed or executed. That to my mind, on a human level, is the biggest tragedy of this execution."
Director (prisons) Vimla Mehra said that the Union home ministry informed the Tihar jail authorities about the rejection of Guru's clemency plea on February 4 and asked them to make preparations for hanging.
Following the communication, Tihar authorities coordinated with home ministry officials following which a decision was taken to get a black warrant issued for the hanging, Mehra said.
Tihar jail received copy of the black warrant late in the evening of February 6 and authorities got a letter ready to be sent to Guru's family past midnight at 12.10am (February 7), jail sources said, adding, effectively, the letter was sent to the family on the morning of February 7. The letter contained date and time of execution.
When asked whether the authorities got confirmation of the receipt of the letter, the jail sources said they did not have any information in this regard.
Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde communicated to Omar about Guru's execution at 8pm on the night previous to the hanging.
Home secretary RK Singh also spoke to Jammu and Kashmir DGP Ashok Prasad at the same time on the subject telling him that it should be found out from the family the next morning whether the letters from the Centre had reached them.
The sources said the Centre's communication on Guru's mercy petition being rejected by the President was sent to the family on February 7 and about his Saturday hanging on February 8.
Union minister of state for home RPN Singh said it was incorrect to say that the family was not informed about the hanging.
"As far as I know, the family was told and they knew it," he told a TV channel.
Singh replied in the affirmative when asked whether the body of Guru was deliberately not returned to the family.
Shinde said yesterday the President rejected the mercy petition of Guru on February 3 and after that he gave his approval on February 4 and the date and timing was confirmed by a judicial official.