PUCL Press Statement:

5th August, 2015
Yakub Memon: How many more executions?
Time to Abolish Death Penalty

PUCL condemns the death by hanging, of Yakub Memon, on 30th July, 2015 in Nagpur Central Jail, following the last minute rejection of his mercy petition by the President of India the evening before, and the early morning dismissal by the Supreme Court, of his petition seeking stay of the hanging, just a few hours before his execution. The SC petition raised issues of violation of important procedural requirements while fixing his execution date. The summary refusal by the President of the mercy petition is especially regrettable considering that new information had surfaced recently in the form of a letter written by B. Raman, IPS, the RAW Officer directly supervising his case, who testified to Yakub’s cooperation with investigating agencies which is a crucial mitigating circumstance.

PUCL has always taken a principled stand against the death sentence as being arbitrary, capricious, unreliable and an uncivilised punishment. It is our view too that DP is anti-thetical to India as the land of ahimsa and non-violence. It is on this principled ground that PUCL has opposed and condemned all executions, including the hanging of Yakub Memon.

It is in this context that we view as unfortunate that the President and the Government, as also the courts remained unresponsive to the call of many eminent citizens to stand above the demand for retribution and vengeance and to exercise the powers of showing mercy; by no stretch was the demand to free Yakub, but only to commute the death sentence.

The Government, instead chose to go ahead with the execution arguing that since the Mumbai 1993 blasts were the first major terrorist crime in India they needed to show their firmness and also so that the hanging will act as a deterrent in the future. We would like to point out that specially in terror related crimes, death penalty is hardly a deterrent as those committing these crimes consciously and knowingly participate unmindful of consequences, including their own deaths. The risk of arrest and death sentence cannot scare or deter such persons.
We would like to point out that a PUCL and Amnesty International – India study of Supreme Court death penalty judgments between 1950-2008 unambiguously shows that there is so much arbitrariness in the application of rarest of rare’ doctrine in death penalty cases that in the ultimate analysis, death sentence constitutes alethal lottery’. A recent study of the Death Penalty Litigation Clinic of the National Law University, Delhi also shows that a predominant number of death row convicts are from poor, socially and economically backward and vulnerable communities and have not had access to good legal support. There can therefore be no justification to retaining death penalty in our law books.

In the context of the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts, we would like to point out that Justice Srikrishna Commission has reported: “One common link between the riots of December 1992 and January 1993 and bomb blasts of 12th March 1993 appears to be that the former appear to have been a causative factor for the latter. There does appear to be a cause and effect relationship between the two riots and the serial bomb blasts”.

Justice Srikrishna further emphasised, “It is distressing that instead of being looked at as incidents of crimes, the two sets of acts got dealt with disparately depending on the communal inclinations of the state apparatus” thereby ensuring that the perpetrators of the communal violence were never prosecuted. Justice has eluded the minority community victims even 23 years after the communal riots that took numerous lives in Bombay in Dec, 1992 and January, 1993.

PUCL would like to stress that three greatest leaders of our Country Gandhiji, Jaya Prakash Narain, the Socialist leader and Dr. Ambedkar, the architect of our Constitution were for abolition of death penalty.

We firmly believe that mercy and compassion are key values of a humane society. We also hold that abolishing death penalty is not a sign of weakness of the State. Rather it is a stand which arises from a sense of moral authority and practical realism.

PUCL once again reiterates the call to abolish death penalty in India and to join the 140 other countries in the world who have abolished death penalty.

Prof. Prabhakar Sinha Dr. V. Suresh,
National President, PUCL National General Secretary, PUCL

Dr. V. Suresh,
National General Secretary, PUCL – People’s Union for Civil Liberties,
270-A, Patparganj, Opp. Anandlok Apartments,
Mayur Vihar – I, Delhi 110091, India.
Ph.: +91-11-22750014; (Fax): +91-11-42151459.