The fresh clemency plea of Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub Memon is likely to be decided on Saturday. Maharashtra Governor C Vidyasagar Rao will decide on the death row convict’s mercy petition, sources indicated.
Memon — the sole death row convict in the 1993 serial blast case— had filed the plea before the Governor on July 21, hours after the Supreme Court rejected his curative petition for commuting his death sentence to life. The superintendent of the Nagpur jail, where Memon is lodged, had forwarded this to the Maharashtra government. Late on Friday, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis finally submitted the mercy plea with the state government’s opinion on it to the Governor’s office, sources said.
The Governor’s office had sought the state government’s advice on the matter under Article 161 of the Indian Constitution, which grants him the discretion to pardon, suspend, or commute a sentence for an offence against any law related to a matter to which the state’s executive power extends.
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Senior government officials said after Memon’s petition reached the state secretariat on July 22, officials from the home and law departments in the state examined its merits on legal and technical grounds.
On condition of anonymity, a senior official said the entire case history, from the date of the bomb blasts, was revisited before firming up the state’s view on the tenability of the petition. The government also sought state Advocate General Anil Singh’s advice on this.
On July 23, The Indian Express had first reported that the Fadnavis government found little merit in the petition and was of the view that Memon’s fresh plea for clemency was untenable. Earlier on Thursday, Fadnavis had said, “The Supreme Court had directed the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act court to fix a date for the execution. Accordingly, the TADA court had finalised July 30 for the hanging. Unless the Supreme Court steps in to stay this execution, it can’t be deferred.”
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As part of its opinion, the government’s legal eagles have also said on the file moved to the Governor that there was no legal requirement for the Governor’s office to refer Memon’s petition to the Government of India, before ruling on it.
Requesting anonymity, a senior government official said, “Guidelines of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs clearly state that such matters must be referred to the Centre only in cases where a lower court order on the quantum of the sentence had been modified by a higher court, which had then confirmed the death sentence. This does not apply to Memon’s case.”
It was the TADA court that had originally sentenced Memon to death in 2006.
The Supreme Court confirmed this in March 2013.
Memon, whose brother Suleiman had earlier filed a mercy plea before President Pranab Mukherjee that was rejected in April 2014, has made five main grounds to justify his fresh appeal for clemency, including his failing mental health, reformative behaviour while in prison, the time of 22 years that he has already spent in jail, parity with other convicts in the case who have been awarded life sentences and his non-complicity in the actual crime.
However, as reported by The Indian Express on July 23, the government has said these grounds were not maintainable, considering that the merits behind the sentencing had been confirmed by various courts and had gone through the full legal process. Sources also confirmed that the government had obtained a fresh medical report from the Nagpur jail to disprove Memon’s ‘failing mental health’ ground. With this being perhaps the first case of its kind where a death row convict’s mercy petition has been filed more than once, the government has also reportedly argued that admitting such a petition would only set a precedent for other similar convicts.
Arguing that Memon had filed his latest clemency plea after the SC had dismissed his curative petition and confirmed TADA court’s death warrant for his hanging on July 30, the government has also said that the SC guideline for a 14-day period between a mercy petition and the execution did not apply in this case. It has also argued that
according to SC guidelines, Memon’s family members had already been intimated about the July 30 hanging two weeks in advance.
During the pendency of the Governor’s ruling and the fresh appeal in the apex court against the death warrant by Memon’s legal side, the state government is continuing with preparations to execute the death sentence on July 30 as scheduled. Government officials also said that all law and order arrangements had been put in place in Nagpur, Mumbai, and at other important places across the state in view of the plans for execution of the death sentence. The government is also in constant touch with central intelligence agencies, a senior state official said.