Lawyer says Supreme Court made a 'tragic mistake'

It’s a battle that will aim to ensure that death row convicts in a similar situation “do not suffer”
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.

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. 

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.

“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. 

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