As 1993 Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memon moved Supreme Court Thursday to seek a stay on his execution, news portal Rediff.com put out what it said was an unpublished article written in 2007 by B Raman, former Additional Secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat, in which he said Yakub did not deserve to be hanged and had been flown to Delhi in a government plane from Nepal.
Raman headed the Pakistan desk in the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) when he coordinated the operation to bring back Yakub and other members of the Memon family from Karachi.
In July 1994, weeks before his retirement, Raman said Yakub was informally picked up in Kathmandu with the help of the Nepal police, “driven across Nepal to a town in Indian territory, flown to Delhi by an aircraft of the Aviation Research Centre and formally arrested in Old Delhi by the investigating authorities and taken into custody for interrogation. The entire operation was coordinated by me.”
“The cooperation of Yakub with the investigating agencies after he was picked up informally in Kathmandu and his role in persuading some other members of the family to come out of Pakistan and surrender constitute, in my view, a strong mitigating circumstance to be taken into consideration while considering whether the death penalty should be implemented,” Raman wrote in the article which was not published earlier on his request.
Raman died in June 2013. On Thursday, Rediff.com said it was publishing the article with the permission of his brother, B S Raghavan, a retired IAS officer and a Rediff.com columnist himself.
Raman wrote: “I have been repeatedly asking myself: Should I write this article? Would I be a moral coward if I did not do so? Would the entire case get unravelled if I wrote it? Would the undoubtedly guilty escape punishment as a result of my writing it? Would my article be adversely viewed by the court? Would I be committing contempt of court? It is impossible to have definitive answers to these questions. Ultimately, I decided to write this in the belief that it is important to prevent a person, who in my view does not deserve to be hanged, from going to the gallows.”
“I was disturbed to notice that some mitigating circumstances in the case of Yakub Memon and some other members of the family were probably not brought to the notice of the court by the prosecution and that the prosecution did not suggest to the court that these circumstances should be taken into consideration while deciding on the punishment to be awarded to them. In their eagerness to obtain the death penalty, the fact that there were mitigating circumstances do not appear to have been highlighted,” he wrote.
Writing that there was “not an iota of doubt’’ about Yakub’s involvement in the blasts conspiracy, Raman stated that in normal circumstances, he would have deserved the death penalty if one only took into consideration his conduct and role before July 1994.
“But if one also takes into consideration his conduct and role after he was informally picked up in Kathmandu, there is a strong case for having second thoughts about the suitability of the death penalty in the subsequent stages of the case,” Raman added.
Yakub cooperated with the investigating agencies and assisted them by persuading some other members of the Memon family to flee from the protection of the ISI in Karachi to Dubai and surrender to the Indian authorities, Raman stated.
“The prosecution was right in saying that Yakub was arrested in Old Delhi. Yakub was right in claiming that he was not arrested in Old Delhi,” he wrote.
According to Raman, Yakub came to Kathmandu secretly from Karachi to consult a relative and a lawyer on the advisability of returning to India and surrendering to the Mumbai police. Yakub said he and some members of the Memon family were uncomfortable with the ISI.
The relative and the lawyer advised Yakub against surrender, fearing that justice might not be done to them. They advised Yakub to return to Karachi.
Before he could board the flight to Karachi, Yakub was picked up by Nepal police on suspicion, identified and rapidly moved to India, Raman stated.
Asked for his comments on the Raman article, Vappala Balachandran, a former special secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat, said: “I was aware of the case but I was not present in the country when the event happened and when he was finally brought in. I was then on a special assignment outside the country and held the rank of a special secretary. Raman was a close friend and if he has said this in writing, then it has to be correct.”
“But at this stage, when the event has gone through so many judicial layers, it would be incorrect for me to say anything on this matter… Raman at that time was asked by Sharad Pawar’s office to assist in this operation, and I am aware that he helped in everything. Raman knew everything and was privy to all the details of Yakub’s movements. He had assisted the CBI and Mumbai police and he did that in the capacity he was assigned. I read the piece just late evening, and I can only say if Raman has written it, it has to be true,” he said.