By filing a fresh personal mercy plea before the President, Yakub Memon -- the only convict sentenced to death in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case -- may have managed to delay his hanging.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court rejected a curative petition -- the last legal remedy available to a convict -- filed by Memon and set July 30 for his execution. But it emerges now that an earlier verdict of the Supreme Court in the matter of mercy pleas may come in the way of sticking to the date set for Memon’s execution,
Hours after an SC bench led by Chief Justice HL Dattu gave its ruling, Memon -- younger brother of prime accused Tiger Memon -- handed over to authorities at Nagpur’s Central Prison a personal mercy plea to be forwarded to President Pranab Mukherjee. A similar plea earlier had been rejected by Mukherjee in April 2014, but that was filed on Memon’s behalf by brother Suleiman.
Anil Gedam and lawyer Shubal Farooquei, along with his cousin Usman Memon, met Memon and decided to file the petition. “He has moved the plea for mercy because the first one was filed by his brother. This is the first mercy petition filed by Yakub,” said Gedam.
Even if his fresh mercy plea is rejected by the President, Memon cannot be hanged on July 30 in view of a Supreme Court verdict that prescribes a 14-day gap between rejection of mercy plea of a death row convict and his execution.
“It is necessary that a minimum period of 14 days be stipulated between the receipt of communication of the rejection of the mercy petition and the scheduled date of execution,” the SC said in a verdict in January 2014.
“This will allow the prisoner to prepare himself mentally for execution and have a final meeting with his family members. It is for the jail superintendent to see that the family members of the convict receive the communication rejection of mercy petition in time,” a three-judge bench headed by then CJI P Sathasivam had said.
“Right to seek for mercy under Article 72/161 of the Constitution is a constitutional right and not at the discretion or whims of the executive. Every Constitutional duty must be fulfilled with due care and diligence; otherwise judicial interference is the command of the Constitution for upholding its values,” the top court had noted.
The SC had said all states should inform the prisoner and their family members of the rejection of the petition by the President. It emphasised that since the availability of court verdicts and other related documents were a necessary prerequisite to the accessing of these rights, it was necessary that copies of relevant documents should be furnished to the prisoner within a week by the prison authorities to assist in making mercy petition and petitioning the courts.
The court’s ruling that a convict has a right to challenge the rejection of the mercy petition can further delay Memon’s execution, as he will challenge the rejection of his second mercy plea as well.
According to the SC verdict, the government is obliged to provide him legal aid at every stage. Jail superintendents have to intimate the rejection of mercy petitions to the nearest legal aid centre, apart from informing the convicts.
Legal experts said Memon had every right to file a mercy plea. “Not only can he file the first mercy plea, but also a second, third and a fourth one. All these desperate mercy pleas continue to be made right till the end. In the US, sometimes it is filed a few hours before the scheduled execution. Each mercy plea has to be disposed of and the disposal communicated to the court concerned, even if it is in the middle of the night,” said senior advocate KTS Tulsi.
Advocate Farhana Shah, who had represented many of the accused in the 1993 blasts, said, “If the petition remains pending till the date fixed by the state, the sentence cannot be executed.”
Manjula Rao, a designated senior counsel, suggested that the state government have a little more patience. “If the petition has been filed, the state should wait a decision is taken. Meanwhile, the President should decide on the petition expeditiously,” Rao said.
A series of blasts had shook Mumbai on the afternoon of March 12, 1993 after 12 bomb explosions went off one after the other at different locations, including Bombay Stock Exchange, Katha Bazaar, Air India Building etc., killing 257 and seriously injuring 713 people. The Supreme Court, while upholding his death penalty in 2007, said Yakub Memon was the "driving spirit" behind the attacks.
(With inputs from Mumbai)