NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the execution of death row convict Yakub Abdul Razak Memon, a key conspirator with Dawood Ibrahim in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case.
A Bench of Justice J S Khehar and Justice C Nagappan issued notice to the Maharashtra Government and others on the plea of Memon and said that in the meantime, the execution proceedings would remain stayed.
The Bench also referred the case to a Constitution Bench saying that review petitions in death penalty cases should not be heard by the apex court in chamber proceedings and be decided in open court.
Senior advocate Upamanyu Hazarika, appearing for Memon, said that a similar plea by a death row convict in the 2000 Red Fort attack case, Mohammed Arif, had been referred to a Constitution Bench and cited the Law Commission report of 2003 which stated that the appeal in death sentence cases in the Supreme Court should be heard by a five-judge Bench.
He also informed the Bench that this recommendation has not been acted upon so far. He said the question whether a review petition in death sentence cases could be decided by the judges in chamber by circulating it as provided in the court’s rules was pending adjudication by a Constitution Bench by court order of 2011 and 2014 in two different cases.
The court had commuted the death penalty awarded by a special TADA court to 10 others, who had planted RDX explosives-laden vehicles at various places in Mumbai, to life term by distinguishing their roles from that of the Memon.
Dealing with the case of Memon, a chartered accountant by profession and brother of proclaimed offender Tiger Memon, the court had said he was the driving force and a mastermind behind the blasts that rocked 12 crowded areas in Mumbai leaving 257 dead and over 700 injured.
“Since Memon as well as other absconders (Dawood and others) were the real conspirators who hatched the scheme for such a tragic act, the 10 appellants were mere subservient subordinates whose knowledge and acquaintance might have been restricted to their counterparts. If we say it in a metaphoric style, he (Yakub) and all the absconding accused were the archers whereas rest of the appellants were the arrows in their hands,” it had said.
Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt was earlier directed to serve the remaining three-and-a-half years of his five-year jail term for possessing illegal arms.
Besides commuting the death sentence of 10 convicts to life term, the court had also awarded rigorous life imprisonment to 25 others, out of which, four were earlier acquitted by the TADA court.
The Supreme Court, which acquitted two persons, had upheld the conviction of 84 others in the case and directed those out on bail to surrender to serve their remaining jail terms.
The Bench had also clarified that the convicts, undergoing life imprisonment, were expected to remain in custody till death.