There was plenty going on yesterday to distract us from reflecting on the hanging of Yakub Memon. The media coverage quickly moved on to the implications for security following his execution. There was the funeral of former President APJ Abdul Kalam at Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu and a bomb scare at Gurdaspur. There was high drama as the Supreme Court worked all night thinking its decision through. And in the end, public opinion was bitterly divided between those who felt that the execution would bring closure to a sensational and emotive case in which so many people had died and those who felt that retributive justice had no place in a civilised society.
But largely lost in all this were the voices of those who had lost their loved ones on that fateful day in 1993. Their argument was that Memon who facilitated the terror attack did not deserve leniency and that only the death penalty would bring them closure. The case has been going on for over two decades and all angles have been considered by the court. The argument over whether he should have been given death or a life sentence will continue, but at no point in time was his guilt in any doubt. The abolition or otherwise of the death penalty is for the law makers to decide, not the courts. Memon’s execution has raised such passions because of the revelations that he may have had come to some sort of informal arrangement with the then government. This is based on information from a late and senior RAW official B Raman. But apart from Raman’s allusion that there may have been some mitigating circumstances which the court did not take note of, there is no clarity on any ‘deal’ that could have in any way gone in Memon’s favour.
Those who have sought to politicise the whole issue seem to overlook the fact that the merits and demerits of the case were argued at great length by the judiciary. And in the case of Memon, the judiciary did not leave any stone unturned. The courts heard the case on several occasions, with the whole issue really coming down to the wire with the Supreme Court reviewing it right up to the dawn hours of yesterday. It finally dismissed his plea to overturn his sentence. All the available evidence was presented before the judges with the matter going to the President twice for consideration. While all attention was focused on Memon, it must not be forgotten that some of the accused were acquitted and the sentence of some were commuted. In Memon’s case, the only arguments in the end rested on technicalities. And this is probably what guided the final judgment.