Hours before the
hanging of Yakub Memon
for his role in the 1993 Mumbai bombings, Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi had appealed to the President to spare his life because doubts about his case had made the death penalty “completely inappropriate”.
Gandhi, a former IAS officer who also served as secretary to President KR Narayanan, said putting off Memon’s execution would be a “fitting tribute to the humane legacy” of former President APJ Abdul Kalam, who had opposed the death penalty.
In his letter sent to President Pranab Mukherjee late on Wednesday night, Gandhi said Kalam had, as recently as earlier this month, expressed his opposition to capital punishment to the Law Commission, which was holding deliberations regarding the desirability and efficacy of the death penalty.
He pointed out that Memon had “submitted to Indian jurisdiction, when he may quite easily have evaded justice”.
Referring to a posthumous article by late RAW official B Raman, Gandhi said a “respected officer of Indian intelligence has spoken of his cooperation with the law, thus rendering the death penalty completely inappropriate in his case”.
He noted that former Supreme Court judges had openly said Memon’s execution would be unjust and that 300 people from all walks of life, including former judges, lawyers and politicians, had appealed to the President.
“Public protestations of this nature and from such quarters are rare. They must give us pause, for whether or not there was a secret understanding with Memon that is being disregarded, a doubt would irretrievably be cast on India’s integrity of process if in the face of this, Yakub Memon is executed,” Gandhi said.
Memon was hanged at Nagpur Central Jail on Thursday, barely two hours after the Supreme Court rejected his last-minute appeal in a dramatic early morning hearing.
The 54-year-old chartered accountant, the brother of mob boss Tiger Memon who masterminded the 1993 blasts, had said over the years that he had returned to India from Pakistan to “clear his name”.
Here is what some others who opposed Memon’s execution had to say:
B Raman, senior official of the Research and Analysis Wing, the external spy agency
In a piece written in 2007, before his death, and published recently, the late Raman had argued that Memon’s case should be treated differently because the evidence he provided helped establish Pakistan’s hand in the 1993 bombings. “I decided to write this in the belief that it is important to prevent a person, who in my view does not deserve to be hanged, from going to the gallows,” he wrote.
Raman said Memon had cooperated with security agencies and helped them by persuading other members of the Memon family to flee from the ISI’s protection in Karachi and surrender to Indian authorities.
He further wrote that “some mitigating circumstances” in Memon’s case “were probably not brought to the notice of the court by the prosecution and that the prosecution did not suggest to the court that these circumstances should be taken into consideration while deciding on the punishment to be awarded”.
Harjit Singh Bedi, former Supreme Court judge
In a letter sent to a newspaper, Bedi said he had read Raman’s article with a “sense of unease” and that this “uneasiness has been transformed into a sense of outrage as I take all that is written to be correct in the light of the outstanding record and character of…Mr B Raman”.
Bedi had suggested that the Supreme Court “should suo motu take notice of Mr Raman’s article and after hearing both sides remand the case to the trial court to take further evidence on the question of the sentence or in the alternative take the evidence itself”. He was also critical of the role of public prosecutors in cases such as those of Memon.
Ram Jethmalani, BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha, Mani Shankar Aiyer of Congress, actors Naseeruddin Shah, filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt and others
About 300 people from different walks of life had
opposed the execution
of Memon in a 15-page petition sent to the President.
They said there were "substantive and fresh grounds" that could be considered to show mercy to Memon.
The group wrote that Memon should be spared “from the noose of death for a crime that was masterminded by someone else to communally divide the country”.
They added: "Grant of mercy in this case will send out a message that while this country will not tolerate acts of terrorism, as a nation we are committed to equal application of the power of mercy and values of forgiveness, and justice. Bloodletting and human sacrifice will not make this country a safer place; it will, however, degrade us all."
In a series of tweets , the Bollywood superstar mounted a spirited defence of Memon and said his brother Yakub Memon should instead be hanged for the 1993 blasts. Salman also asked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to confirm whether Tiger Memon was in Pakistan. After facing criticism for his tweets on social media, Khan retracted and apologised.
But Salman said he stood by his comment that “Tiger Memon should hang for his crimes” and added: “What I also said is that Yakub Memon should not hang for him.”