Despite Yakub Memon — the only death row convict in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case — citing five grounds for reprieve in his latest mercy plea, the BJP-led Maharashtra government, according to senior officials, is of the view that his appeal for clemency remains untenable. Accordingly, the government is preparing legal grounds to disprove Memon’s plea, while continuing with its preparations for the convict’s hanging on July 30.
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Memon had addressed his latest clemency plea to Maharashtra Governor C Vidyasagar Rao, who under Article 161 of the Constitution has power “to grant pardon and to suspend, remit or commute sentences”. Although the Governor’s office was yet to receive a copy of the petition — the 2,800 page plea reached the state home department on Wednesday. Meanwhile, sources confirmed that the Governor’s office had already sought Fadnavis government’s advice on the matter. With just eight days to the scheduled hanging, the BJP government is consulting top legal luminaries to decide on the plea. Any delay beyond July 29 would mean re-doing the entire process — from issuing the death warrant to fixing a date for the hanging and informing the relatives. Sources confirmed that the government’s opinion on the tenability of the clemency plea will be submitted to the Governor along with Memon’s petition.
“We are seeking legal opinion on whether the fresh mercy plea is tenable,” said Dr Vijay Satbir Singh, Principal Secretary, Home (Appeals and Security).
Memon has cited five main grounds for seeking fresh clemency.
“The first is his mental and physical health. He has been suffering from schizophrenia since 1996, and his health has further deteriorated over the years. He suffered several breakdowns while facing trial before the TADA court due to a fragile medical condition,” said Memon’s lawyer, Shubail Farook.
The second reason that the plea invokes is the ground of parity, arguing that the remaining convicts in the case — including those who planted bombs — had been handed life sentences.
It further claims that Memon has already served 22 years in jail. Besides this, it makes grounds for reformative punishment, arguing that Memon had been awarded two degrees by the Indira Gandhi National Open University, and for his tutoring of fellow inmates. Lastly, Memon has also challenged the merit behind his sentencing yet again.
Government officials, however, said that the merit behind the sentencing had already been confirmed by the judiciary.
Dr Singh claimed that this was perhaps the first case when a death row convict had filed a mercy petition more than once. He added, “Neither the Constitution nor the prison’s manual clearly puts out provisions in this regard… We (the government) shall continue with preparations for the hanging on July 30 unless a stay is imposed on it.”
The government has also directed Nagpur jail authorities to submit a fresh medical report on Memon’s health.
A family source told The Indian Express that the idea of filing a fresh clemency plea came from a written reply filed by the Nagpur jail superintendent on legal remedies available to Memon after his earlier review petition was turned down by the Supreme Court.
“The jail superintendent had then said we had three remedies — a curative petition in the SC, a mercy plea before the President, and a mercy plea before the Governor. We have now exhausted two remedies. We shall decide further course of action depending on the Governor’s decision,” the family source said.