‘Yakub is dead but my fight goes on’: Hanged terrorist’s lawyer says Supreme Court made a ‘tragic mistake’ and Memon did not get time to make peace with his creator
Anand Grover, a senior Supreme Court lawyer who represented Memon, feels he was harshly treated
The hangman did his job, and Yakub Memon is dead. But it seems a fight will continue nonetheless.
It’s a battle that will aim to ensure that death row convicts in a similar situation “do not suffer”. And leading the battle will be Anand Grover, the senior Supreme Court lawyer who represented Memon in two crucial hearings.
The eminent lawyer feels that by dismissing Memon’s mercy plea just two hours before his execution on Thursday, the apex court committed a “tragic mistake”.
“Supreme Court committed a tragic mistake. Yakub Memon did not get time to come to peace with his own god, come to peace with his own soul and even settle the will with his family. He may be dead but I will still move the apex court so that convicts in identical situations do not suffer. I hope the Supreme Court will change this norm,” Grover told Mail Today.
Memon, the lone convict to be sentenced to death in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts case, was hanged to death in the Nagpur Central Prison at 6.43am on Thursday after a day of intense court room action and an unprecedented night-long legal proceeding in the Supreme Court.
Apparently the country’s apex court wanted to send across an impression that it will not stand in the way of anybody who wanted to exhaust his last legal remedy.
“It was a tragic mistake and a wrong decision. The authorities were hell bent on executing him without giving him the right to challenge the rejection of his mercy petition by the President as right to life of a condemned prisoner lasts till his last breath,” Grover said.
People celebrate after the hanging of 1993 Mumbai blasts accused Yakub Memon, in Ahmedabad
RAF personnel on patrol near Yakub Memon’s residence in Mumbai on July 30
He questioned how the apex court accepted the argument of the Modi government’s Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi that Memon had one-and-a-half years to file the curative petition, the last legal remedy available to a death convict, when the second official review petition was dismissed only on April 9, 2015.
“When the apex court allowed hearing of the review petition in an open court in Mohammad Arif’s case it is a continuation of the process. At that stage the earlier review petition need not be counted,” Grover said.
Memon should have been given a chance to challenge the rejection of the mercy plea by the Maharashtra Governor and President Pranab Mukherjee which was his right, Grover said. He had a right to go to the court and challenge it, he added.
“It is totally unacceptable how the two executive authorities could reject overnight the mercy petitions which had cited new grounds like the convict suffering from schizophrenia and his good conduct in the jail,” Grover said.
The President should also have considered the fact that the mercy petition moved by the convict on Wednesday was the first by himself and all the earlier ones were by his relatives including his brother.
Police personnel stand guard outside Yakub’s house in Mumbai
“In the historic judgment in Shatrughan Chauhan case the court ruled that in cases of death sentence if there is undue delay in execution then the sentence can be reduced to life imprisonment. It had said that after a mercy petition is rejected one has every chance to challenge it,” said Grover.
“Apparently, the fear of the court and the authorities was if they allow a stay we would have challenged the mercy plea and it could get dragged on and the execution could get delayed. But remember it was our right,” said Memon’s lawyer.
In a last-ditch effort to save Memon from the gallows and get the hanging fixed for 7am deferred, Memon’s battery of eminent lawyers – Prashant Bhushan, Nitya Ramakrishnan Yug Chaudhary and Vrinda Grover – cited the Maharashtra Jail Manual that mandated seven days gap between rejection of mercy petition or curative petition and execution of a convict.
They also reminded the court about the 14-day gap between the day of rejection of mercy plea and execution, but it literally fell on deaf ears.
They vehemently argued that these rulings are being violated, but the apex court was not impressed.
Grover was of the view that the three-judge bench which finally dismissed Memon’s plea should not have totally ignored the conclusion of Justice Kurian Joseph, one of the judges in the earlier Bench that there was a procedural lapse in the way the convict’s curative petition was heard.
“He should have got a benefit of doubt. There should have been a relook as Justice Kurian suggested. What was the hurry in hanging and decision making? It was after all an issue of taking the life of a man. As the old saying goes, if you cannot give life you cannot take a life,” said Grover.
Thousands turn up for his burial
By Ganesh N in Mumbai
Yakub’s brothers Suleiman (left) and Usman pictured outside the jail in Nagpur
The body of Yakub Abdul Razak Memon, who was hanged to death at 7am in Nagpur jail on Thursday, was laid to rest by his family members at a cemetery in Mumbai.
Thousands of people turned up to witness the burial.
After his execution, his body was flown to Mumbai, where it arrived at 1.30pm. Initially, it was said that the body would be taken to Al Hussaini building at Mahim, where the Memon family resides. This was the same building where Yakub’s brother Ibrahim, alias Tiger Memon, hatched the conspiracy for the 1993 serial bomb blasts.
However, the ambulance carrying the body was instead taken to his elder brother Suleman’s residence at Bismillah Manzil.
Notwithstanding the large presence of police personnel, thousands of people turned up for the namaze- janaza, the last prayer offered in the memory of the departed.
The Mumbai police had deployed a Quick Response Team (QRT), a specialised squad that is designed to control a riot-like situation. In fact, the entire 35,000-strong Mumbai police force was on duty on Thursday as all leave and holidays had been cancelled.
Mumbai Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria himself turned up at Mahim to oversee the police deployment for the funeral.
At Mahim, it took over two hours for the body to proceed to the cemetery. An announcement was made that the funeral will not be heading to nearby Mahim Durgah, but instead go to Bada Kabristan near Marine Lines in South Mumbai.
However, the number of people in the funeral procession swelled beyond the expectations of the police. It was estimated that more than 15,000 people turned up for the funeral.
A large turnout of mourners for the funeral was trending on Twitter with many, including media representatives, making sarcastic remarks about it.
Yakub’s body was laid to rest at about 5.30pm. Coincidentally, Thursday was Yakub’s birthday. He lived to see the sunrise of July 30, as Nagpur city recorded the sunrise at 5.46am.
In the last days leading to his execution, Yakub was observed to be anxious due to the uncertainty on the outcome of his petition before the Supreme Court. It was only after Yakub met his elder brother Suleman on Wednesday night that he had food.
Yakub’s last wish was to meet his daughter Zubeida. However, as she was in Mumbai and a meeting in person could not be arranged, the prison officials facilitated a phone call between the father and daughter on Wednesday night.
Congress and BJP spar over Yakub’s hanging
By Mail Today Bureau in New Delhi
Leaders of the ruling BJP and the Opposition Congress traded barbs on Thursday over the hanging of 1993 Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memon.
Congress leaders Shashi Tharoor and Digvijaya Singh raised questions on the credibility of the government and the judiciary, following which BJP leaders launched a counter-attack, calling their comments “bizarre” and “insult to the people”.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley (left) slammed the Congress, while Shashi Tharoor (right) expressed sadness over Yakub Memon’s hanging.
Expressing his opinion in a series of tweets, Digvijaya said the government and the judiciary should display the same exemplary urgency and commitment in all terror cases irrespective of the religion of the accused.
“I have my doubts the way the cases of other Terror accused are being conducted. Let’s see. Credibility of the Govt and Judiciary is at stake (sic),” he said.
Tharoor, meanwhile, said “state-sponsored killing diminishes us all by reducing us to murderers too”.
He said he was saddened by the news that “our government has hanged a human being”.
Attacking the Congress, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley slammed the Opposition leaders for giving contrarian statements on Yakub’s death sentence. He said it was a cause of concern and demanded that Congress president Sonia Gandhi explain to the country what the party’s was stand on this.
BJP secretary Shrikant Sharma said the Congress leaders’ remarks underlined the conflicting voices in the Opposition party over the issue of terrorism.
“He (Tharoor) is insulting the peace-loving people who want to get rid of terrorism.”
Union Minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy, meanwhile, said he was shocked by Tharoor’s comments and termed them bizarre.