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Yakub Memon’s hanging: Making a villain a hero

The execution of Yakub Memon is an inappropriate occasion to discuss the death penalty

Written by Sambit Patra | New Delhi |
Updated: August 8, 2015 7:56:51 am
Yakub Memon, death penalty, Yakub Memon death penalty, yakub memon hanging, RSS, RSS yakub, 1993 Mumbai blasts case, Mumbai blasts case, yakub memon execution, Yakub mumbai blast, tiger memon, Supreme Court, Yakub memon capital punishment, Yakub death sentence, Yakub mercy plea, india news, nation news The Supreme Court found that only Yakub Memon— apart from absconders including Dawood and Anees Ibrahim — had the full knowledge of the conspiracy. (Source: Indian Express Archive)

Yakub Memon was made to look like a “prisoner of conscience” in the last week of his life by the human rights industry. First, Lok Sabha MP Asaduddin Owaisi argued that though Yakub was involved in planning the Mumbai serial blasts, he did not deserve death. Then, around 300 politicians, including MPs, legal luminaries and retired judges, petitioned the president to commute his death sentence. A candlelight vigil was observed at Jantar Mantar. Some people woke up to the absurdity of capital punishment. A posthumously published article by B. Raman, a former RAW official, further muddled the scenario.

Several arguments were advanced to the benefit of Yakub. First, it was not Yakub but his elder brother, Tiger Memon, who was the co-conspirator of the Mumbai blasts. Second, he had voluntarily surrendered to the Indian authorities with his family members and therefore deserved leniency. Third, his prolonged confinement in jail made capital punishment redundant. Fourth, India should abolish capital punishment in line with other civilised nations of the world.

The Supreme Court judgment pronounced by Justices P. Sathasivam and B.S. Chauhan on March 21, 2013 established the culpability of Yakub in the blasts case and confirmed the death sentence the Tada court awarded him in 2007. Yakub was one of the 11 convicts sentenced to death by the Tada court. But the SC found enough mitigating factors in the case of the other 10 convicts and reduced their sentences to rigorous life imprisonment. Why was Yakub singled out? The SC, obviously, had no enmity towards him.

There was a subtle attempt by good samaritans to distinguish between the roles played by the Memon brothers. Such presumptions grow upon fond ignorance of the facts. The SC reconstructed the role of Yakub in the conspiracy through the confessional statements of different persons convicted by the Tada court. The confessions by at least 15 other accused had a common reference point — Yakub Memon. The judgment unequivocally stated that Yakub had assumed Tiger’s role in the latter’s absence. Tiger (when in Dubai or Pakistan) gave commands through Yakub, who passed them on to the other conspirators. The SC also found him guilty of conducting hawala transactions to facilitate the blasts.

Yakub was also found guilty of arranging air tickets for the blasts perpetrators to travel to Pakistan and Dubai for arms-training. The SC found that only Yakub — apart from absconders including Dawood and Anees Ibrahim — had the full knowledge of the conspiracy. The other conspirators, whose death sentence was commuted, had only limited knowledge. The judges metaphorically stated that Yakub and the absconders were archers and the rest mere arrows in their hands. The court ruled that without the planning of the lead conspirators, among them Yakub, the explosives and ammunition used in the blast would not have entered India. Further, the actual bomb planters would not have acted without a green signal from them.

The final conspiratorial meeting took place at the Al-Hussaini Building on the intervening night of March 11 and 12, 1993. The Memons occupied three flats in that six-storied building on Dargah Road, Mahim. RDX was transferred to vehicles, which were blown apart at different public places in Mumbai, from the open garages of this building. At least 15 co-accused deposed that they were present at that crucial meeting along with Tiger and Yakub.

It is a deceptive argument that Yakub deserved mercy because he had spent 22 years in jail. The Tada court examined 686 witnesses and sifted through 13,000 pages of testimony. Of the 123 persons who went on trial, 100 were sentenced by the Tada court, whereas 23 were acquitted. The Tada court sentenced 11 people, including Yakub, to death and handed life and other sentences to the rest.

The theory that Yakub deserved leniency because he and his family had surrendered is confounding. It did not come up during trial. They were busy trying to prove their utter non-involvement in the blasts. Leniency, the public prosecutor said, could not be extended to the principal conspirator. What if Dawood Ibrahim surrenders tomorrow, demanding pardon as a condition? Will the government absolve him? Remember, the 13 blasts that ravaged Mumbai killed 257 people, besides injuring 713.

Another overlooked aspect is the arms-training given to recruits in Pakistan and the bringing of automatic assault weapons into the city. Actor Sanjay Dutt, now serving his sentence in Yerwada Central Jail, was the recipient of three AK-56 rifles from Abu Salem. The original conspiracy seemed to be larger than the planting of bombs. A 26/11 could have been orchestrated in 1993 itself. Also, Yakub was given full opportunity to present his defence.

The debate over the abolition of the death penalty cannot be occasioned by the execution of a terror-plotter. Would there have been such a debate if an ordinary murderer was executed? A sustained and balanced debate is necessary.

The writer is national spokesperson, BJP. Views are personal

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