The Maharashtra government has announced that Yakub Memon will be hanged on July 30, providing the Supreme Court rejects his mercy plea on July 21, but experts say the decision to announce a date was hasty and premature.
Dilip Salve, special public prosecutor for the CBI in the 1993 blasts case, said that because the Supreme Court did not stay Yakub’s execution while rejecting his previous mercy plea on April 9, the process could technically be initiated. He alleged that the mercy petitions were part of the defence’s tactics to delay Yakub’s execution.
But noted criminal lawyer Nitin Pradhan, who represented several people accused in the 1993 blasts case, said the Supreme Court has on many occasions commuted capital punishment to life in jail. “The Supreme Court has the power to stay or commute a death sentence even if the execution date is finalised by the government. It has done so in several cases. Considering that Memon’s curative petition is pending before the court, fixing the date may have been a hasty move,” he said.
Siting the example of Nithari killer Surinder Koli, accused in 16 cases of murder, Pradhan added, “[Koli’s] death sentence was commuted on the grounds of delay in execution of sentence. Koli’s appeal and mercy petition were both rejected and date of his execution was also fixed before his sentence was reduced to life in jail. This can also happen in Yakub’s case too.”
Lawyer Farhana Shah, who also represented many suspects in the 1993 blasts case, said the government should not to have announced a date of execution so early. “The defense advocate will definitely bring up this issue in the Supreme Court during the hearing on July 21. The court still has the power to commute Yakub’s death sentence to life imprisonment, so how can the government take such a step before the court gives its final order? It would be unfair,” Shah said.