Officials at Nagpur's Central Jail are looking for a hangman after the Maharashtra government announced that 1993 blasts convict Yakub Memon will be hanged on July 30, if the Supreme Court rejects his mercy plea on July 21.
Neither Nagpur Central Jail nor Yerwada Central Jail in Pune – the two prisons in Maharashtra that are equipped to execute convicts – has an executioner.
The last execution at the Nagpur jail was carried out in 1984 when the Wankhede brothers from neighbouring Amravati were hanged for murder. For the most recent execution carried out in the state, that of 26/11 terror attack convict Ajmal Kasab on November 21, 2012, officials at Yerwada jail had to call in a retired hangman.Officials in the state's home department, however, said that getting a hangman would not be a problem. Nagpur jail superintendent Yogesh Desai said even though they do not have a hangman on the rolls, the prison has the necessary facilities to hang convicts and can carry out the execution.
"We had increased the remuneration for hangmen ahead of Kasab's hanging in November 2012 and managed to arrange for one to hang him at Yerwada jail," said an officer in the home department.
Sources said prison officials now have two options: they can either bring in a retired hangman from within in the state, as they did in Kasab's case, or get one from a neighbouring state such as Madhya Pradesh.
"This decision will be taken by the state home department and prison officials," said an official, who did not wish to be named.
Hindustan Times reported on Wednesday that the state government plans to hang Yakub in the Nagpur jail on July 30 if the Supreme Court turns down his mercy plea on July 21. The government initiated the process of Yakub's execution after the apex court on April 9 rejected a petition seeking a review of his death sentence by a trial court.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis told Hindustan Times that the process of Yakub's execution was initiated in line with the SC order and the government has informed his relatives about it. When asked about Yakub's curative petition, scheduled for hearing on July 21, Fadnavis said there were no directives about it from the apex court, which is yet to admit the petition.
Asked why the government did not wait for the SC's decision on his curative petition, Vijay Satbir Singh, principal secretary (home) said on Wednesday, "All procedures are being followed as per the jail manual and court orders. After getting an order from the TADA court, the government initiated the procedure on April 29. Memon's curative petition was moved in May though it has not been admitted by the Supreme Court yet. The court has not even stayed the execution or the lower court's order."
Singh added that the date and time of Yakub's execution were finalised after consultations with the law and judiciary department. He also claimed there was no dearth of hangmen and that Nagpur jail is well-equipped to carry out the execution. He added that the state administration will soon identify a hangman.
Officials in the home department said Yakub's relatives in south Mumbai have been informed of his impending execution on Tuesday.
"According to a Supreme Court directive, relatives must be informed 15 days before the execution. The death warrant was issued on Monday and served to [Yakub's] relatives on Tuesday. Jail authorities in Nagpur also have been informed to allow them to prepare for the hanging," said an official from the home department, who did not wish to be named.
Yakub himself was expected to be informed of the state's decision by Wednesday evening, once jail superintendent Swati Sathe reached Nagpur, said a source in the state home department. Sathe, who is superintendent of Yerwada jail, currently has the additional charge of Nagpur prison.
Yakub, a chartered accountant, is the brother of fugitive terror mastermind Ibrahim Mushtaq 'Tiger' Memon. According to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which investigated the case, Tiger Memon got Yakub involved in planning the serial blasts, which killed 257 people and injured about 700 on March 12, 1993.
Yakub was sentenced to death by a designated TADA court in 2007 after it found him guilty of playing a key role in the criminal conspiracy. The CBI alleged that the blasts were planned by Dawood Ibrahim, Tiger Memon and others.
The SC subsequently upheld Yakub's death penalty while commuting the sentences of 11 others to life imprisonment. President Pranab Mukherjee had turned down Yakub's mercy plea last year.Meanwhile, sources said Yakub has been keeping a low profile at Nagpur Central Jail. He was shifted there in August 2007 from Yerwada jail as part of a move to ease overcrowding in the Pune prison.