A deputy registrar of the Supreme Court has resigned to protest against the execution of Yakub Memon for his role in the 1993 Mumbai blasts, reflecting the simmering discontent within the institution.
Professor Anup Surendranath, who had joined the apex court on deputation from Delhi’s National Law University, had described the verdicts that paved the way for Memon’s hanging and the reasons they were based on as “instances of judicial abdication that must count amongst the darkest hours for the Supreme Court”.
The director of the Death Penalty Research Project was appointed the deputy registrar (research) on contract a year ago. He was associated with the filing of the petition for a stay of Memon's death warrant and resigned on July 30, the day of the execution.
Surendranath involved the Death Penalty Research Project as a co-petitioner in Memon’s case and attended all the hearings in the apex court, including the pre-dawn proceedings held on Thursday, less than two hours before Memon was hanged.
He was among 20 deputy registrars, only a few of whom are from outside the judiciary.
Surendranath declined to comment on the reasons for his resignation when contacted by HT on Saturday. He told the media he would focus on bringing to light inconsistencies in the “judicial administration of the death penalty”.
In a post made on his Facebook page after his resignation, Surendranath wrote: “I have been contemplating this for a while now for a variety of reasons, but what was played out this week at the Supreme Court was the proverbial final nail – I have resigned from my post at the Supreme Court to focus on death penalty work at the University.
“It is in many ways liberating to regain the freedom to write whatever I want and I hope to make full use of that in the next few days to discuss the events that transpired at the Supreme Court this week.”
In another post before Memon’s hanging, he wrote: “It must be made difficult to take a person's life, as difficult as possible. And that's the way it should be.”
Memon’s hanging has triggered a raging debate over the death penalty, especially because of his claims that he had returned to India from Pakistan to clear his name. Critics of the death penalty have also said that Memon provided crucial evidence which pointed to Pakistan’s involvement in the 1993 bombings that killed 257 people.
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 was hanged in the Nagpur Central Jail early on July 30.
Hours before his death, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Dipak Misra started hearing a plea for deferring the execution at 3.20am but ruled that he had been given adequate opportunities to file mercy pleas. Earlier, the same bench upheld the validity of Memon’s death warrant, saying he had exhausted all his options.
“It would be silly and naive to see the events of the last 24 hours at the Supreme Court as a triumph of the rule of law – the two orders at 4pm on July 29 and 5am on July 30 (and the reasoning adopted therein) are instances of judicial abdication that must count among the darkest hours for the Supreme Court of India,” Surendranath said in his Facebook post dated July 30.
Sources in the apex court said Surendranath’s resignation letter stated he was stepping down for personal reasons and to pursue research. They said the resignation had been accepted and he had been relieved.