Memon's execution stayed

Memon's execution stayed

SC refers death penalty to Constitution Bench

Memon's execution stayed

The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the execution of death-row convict Yakub Abdul Razak Memon, who is in jail for conspiring to carry out the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts. The court also referred the matter to the Constitution Bench.

Memon, the brother of fugitive Ibrahim Memon, also known as Tiger Memon, the alleged mastermind and the prime accused, approached the apex court after his mercy plea was rejected by President Pranab Mukherjee recently.

A bench of justices J S Khehar and C Nagappan sought responses from the Centre, Maharashtra government and the Supreme Court Registry, on his petition, also challenging the practice of deciding review petitions in chamber hearing.

He urged for quashing of the death sentence on the ground that he has been in jail for the last 20 years and could not be sentenced for life and to death for the same offence. He also claimed that he was suffering from schizophrenia.

The court ordered status quo in case of Memon’s execution and tagged his petition with that of Mohd Arif alias Ashfaq, a death row convict in the 2000 Red Fort attack case where three people, including two Army jawans, were killed.

In April, the apex court had referred Arif’s petition to a Constitution bench to decide if death penalty cases’ review should be heard in open court.

Senior advocate Upmanyu Hazarika, appearing for Memon, referred to Arif’s case and urged the court to decide if a person could suffer two alternate sentences consecutively and if it was justified to award a higher punishment after suffering a protracted jail term during the trial and appeals.

“The right to speedy trial of the petitioner as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India also stands violated in the instant case due to the same taking 14 long years and thereafter the appeal proceedings taking 6 more years and during the entire period the petitioner was incarcerated behind bars,” Memon’s petition said.

The petitioner urged that the Right to Life be given the widest import possible as consequences are irreversible in death penalty cases.

The Centre had in March urged the President to reject Memon’s mercy petition on the basis of the Maharashtra government’s decision which did not favour clemency.

Memon was sentenced to death by a Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (Tada) court in 2007 after being found guilty of criminal conspiracy and arranging finances and managing its disbursement through the co-accused in the Mumbai serial blasts. Upholding the Mumbai Tada court’s verdict, the Supreme Court held in March, 2013, “It is not a hyperbole to state that he was one of the driving spirits behind the plan.”

In October 2013, Memon applied for Presidential pardon. After rejection of the mercy plea, the Maharashtra government was to fix the date for his execution. He is currently lodged in the Nagpur jail.