Yakub Memon, the 1993 Mumbai blasts convict, was executed at Nagpur Central Jail on Thursday morning, barely two hours after the Supreme Court rejected a last-ditch petition by senior lawyers to spare his life following a dramatic late-night hearing.
The lone death row convict in the case was hanged at 7am amid massive security on his 53rd birthday. He was sentenced to death for the dozen explosions that rocked India’s financial capital, killing 257 people and leaving more than 700 injured.
Yakub – brother of prime accused Tiger Memon -- was the only one of 11 people convicted over the atrocity to have his death sentence upheld on appeal with all others given life imprisonment.
“Yes, Yakub was hanged at Nagpur central jail at 7.00am sharp,” said chief minister Devendra Fadnavis as high alert was sounded across the nation.
Jail administration handed over Yakub’s body to his elder brother, Suleiman and cousin, Usman Memon, around 9.30am after the family gave an undertaking that they would not hold demonstrations with the body and ensure a quiet burial in Mumbai.
After finishing all formalities, Suleiman and Usman took custody of the body and left for the Nagpur airport by 9.45am, local jail authorities confirmed. The body was taken to Mumbai for burial by a service flight.
His body reached landed in Mumbai around 12.10pm but the police banned filming or taking photographs of the body during transportation from the airport to the burial ground to avoid any breach of law and order.
Yakub's body was taken directly to Bismillah Manzil in Mahim where his brother Suleiman Memon lives.
A crowd of around 500 persons had gathered outside the building as soon as the ambulance carrying Yakub’s body arrived in the area, and the entire scene was constantly monitored by plain clothes policemen.
A family member told Hindustan Times, “Yakub’s body would be taken to the burial ground at around 4 pm.” Yakub’s wife and daughter were inside the house at Bismillah Manzil.
Policemen announced at Mahim on loudspeaker that the Namaz-e-Janaza would be read at the Bada Kabarstan at Charni Road at 4.30 pm.
Hundreds of security personnel lined the Mahim neighbouhood where the Memons live and at the burial ground.
Yakub became only the third person – all terrorists – to be executed in the last decade after 26/11 convict Ajmal Kasab in 2012 and Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru a year later. India is one of 21 countries to enforce capital punishment but executions have slowed down to a trickle though hundreds are on death row.
The only well-educated member of the Memon family was found guilty of criminal conspiracy, arranging money for buying vehicles used by the bombers and organising air tickets to Dubai for some of them.
He denied any involvement in the blasts during a staggered trial and appeal process that bitterly divided opinion and triggered calls for his life to be spared.
Watch |People react to Yakub Memon's hanging
“Saddened by news that our government has hanged a human being. State-sponsored killing diminishes us all by reducing us to murderers too,” Congress leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted.
Hours before his death, a three-judge SC bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra started hearing plea for deferring Yakub’s execution at 3.20 am but ruled he was given enough opportunities.
"It will be travesty of justice if the death warrant is stayed in a case of this nature," the court said at 4.55 am.
Earlier in the day, the same bench upheld the validity of Yakub’s death warrant, saying he had exhausted all options.
"There is no question of victory or elation. I have done my duty," attorney general Mukul Rohatgi said. A disappointed Anand Grover, who represented Yakub, called it a "sad day".
The court’s verdict came after an unprecedented 95-minute open court hearing that saw Yakub’s lawyers insisting the mercy petition rejected by President Pranab Mukherjee late on Wednesday was his first plea. An earlier petition that was rejected by Mukherjee in April 2014 was filed by Yakub’s brother.
Grover said Yakub must be given 14 days as mandated by the SC to meet family members and settle his will.
"We are not on merits. It's over now. I am only seeking 14 days," Grover told the three-judge bench but was turned down.
Mukherjee rejected Yakub’s appeal after a marathon meeting with home minister Rajnath Singh in the presence of home secretary LC Goyal and solicitor general Ranjit Kumar. Sources said the government told the President it wasn’t in favour of delaying the execution due to law and order concerns.
Days before his death, a controversy had broken out over the circumstances of his arrest after an article by a deceased intelligence official, B Raman, said Yakub cooperated with investigating agencies but there was no confirmation of a deal.
(with inputs from HTC, Delhi and Mumbai)