SC’s May judgment could hold key to Memon’s fate

In the May 27 order, the SC judges had ruled that “sufficient notice ought to be given to the convict before issuance of a warrant of death."

Written by Sandeep A Ashar | Mumbai | Published:July 29, 2015 4:10 am
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A judgment pronounced by the Supreme Court two months ago may hold the key to the fate of 1993 Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub Memon’s petition seeking stay on his execution.

Memon, the sole death row convict in the case, has argued that the special TADA court had not consulted him before issuing a death warrant on April 30, fixing the execution of the sentence for July 30.

On May 27, 2015, a bench of Justices A K Sikri and U U Lalit had set aside a death warrant issued against a couple, Shabnam and Salim, who had been convicted for murdering seven members of a family, ruling that lower courts could not issue death warrants unilaterally. It had observed that the death warrants must be signed after waiting for exhaustion of all remedies available to the convict.

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Memon’s advocates have listed out that the TADA court had issued the death warrant in haste without waiting for him to avail legal remedies. They have also listed that the execution of the warrant would violate provisions of Article 21 of the Constitution of India, which recognises a person’s right to life.

Senior government sources said that it was a fact that the special TADA court had issued the death warrant in Memon’s case even as the option of filing a curative plea was available with him.

Making a case for setting aside of the warrant, Memon’s side holds the view that under principles of natural justice, they ought to have been consulted and heard before fixing of the date for execution.

In the May 27 order, the SC judges had ruled that “sufficient notice ought to be given to the convict before issuance of a warrant of death by a lower court that would enable the convict the convict to consult his advocates and to be represented in the proceedings”.

In the order copy, the SC judges had also included a portion of the another judgment by a division bench of the Allahabad High Court in the Peoples’ Union for Democratic Rights Versus Union of India and Others case, which states, “We are affirmatively of the view that in a civilized society, the execution of the sentence of death cannot be carried out in such an arbitrary manner, keeping the prisoner in the dark and without allowing him recourse and information. Essential safeguards must be observed.”

Incidentally, the government has argued that it too was not consulted before fixing of the date for Memon’s execution.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao is yet to formally take a call on Memon’s mercy plea, with sources reiterating that he was inclined to wait for the Supreme Court to deliver its judgment on Memon’s review petition. Amid the uncertainty over the execution, the state government for now is continuing with preparations for the hanging on July 30.

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