New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday suspended execution of the death sentence of 1993 Mumbai bomb blast case convict Yakub Abdul Razak Memon as it issued notice to the central government on his petition challenging the apex court’s rules guiding the review of capital punishment order.
Suspending Yakub Mamon’s execution, a bench of Justice J.S. Khehar and Justice C. Nagappan tagged his plea with that of December 2000 Red Fort attack death row convict Mohamed Arif, who has contended that the review petition in death sentence cases should be heard in open court and not to be decided by circulation amongst the judges.
President Pranab Mukherjee May 21 rejected Memon’s mercy plea. He applied for presidential pardon in October 2013.
Appearing for Memon, senior counsel Upamanyu Hazarika told the court that the Law Commission in its report in 2003 said that the appeal in death sentence cases in the Supreme Court should be heard by a five-judge bench but noted this recommendation has not been acted upon so far.
He said the question whether a review petition in death sentence cases could be decided by the judges in chamber by circulating it as provided in the court’s rules is pending adjudication by a constitution bench by the court’s order of 2011 and 2014 in two different cases.
Memon, in his petition, said that the rule concerned “is arbitrary, unreasonable, unfair and unconstitutional and violative of articles 14, 21 and 137” of the constitution and also “violative of the principles of natural justice”.
Hazarika told the court that Memon has already undergone 20 years of imprisonment following his arrest from Kathmandu airport in 1994 and could he now be sent to the gallows? In the case of Arif, April 28, the court was told that he has already undergone 14 years of incarceration and now he could not be executed as it violated the constitution’s article 20 (2) which provides that “no person shall be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once”.
Execution of death sentence after Memon has already under gone imprisonment of 20 years “would amount to (his) having suffered life imprisonment as well as death sentence for the same offence thereby violating his right under article 20(2), the petition read.
Staying the execution of Arif’s death sentence April 28, the bench of Chief Justice R.M.Lodha, Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph referred the matter to the constitution bench saying that it involved the question of interpretation of constitutional provisions.
The Supreme Court March 21 upheld the death sentence awarded to Memon by the special (now lapsed) TADA (Terrorism and Disruptive Activities Prevention Act) court and confirmed by the Bombay High Court.
Memon has been described as a mastermind of the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts – a series of 13 explosions March 12, 1993, claiming 257 lives and leaving 713 injured.
On March 21, the apex court bench, while confirming his death sentence, said his “deeds can’t be viewed distinct from the act of Tiger Memon, hence, both owe an equivalent responsibility for the blasts”.
The court described Memon and others as “driving spirit” and “architects of the blasts, without whom the plan would have never seen the daylight”.
“Yakub Memon also played an active role in generation and management of funds for achieving the object behind the conspiracy and in all subsequent events,” it said.
The TADA trial court presided over by Justice P.D. Kode had commenced the trial Nov 4, 1993, and pronounced its 4,230-page verdict July 31, 2007.
The trial court awarded death sentence to 12 people, including Memon. One of them has passed away.
The trial court had also sentenced 20 people to life imprisonment and 46 others, including Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt, were given varying terms of imprisonment.