NEW DELHI: Dismissing the argument that 1993 Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memon's execution should have been stalled by 14 days after the rejection of his mercy plea, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi on Thursday said had that happened, it would have been against the "spirit of the law".
In an interview to Karan Thapar on India Today television channel, Rohatgi, who contested Memon's plea, said that submitting a mercy petition on the eve of the execution was wrong and Memon should have done it in April 2014 when his mercy petition was rejected by President Pranab Mukherjee.
"The first petition for presidential clemency was on April 11, 2014. From that day, if you calculate, it's more than 14 months. When your mercy petition was rejected in April 2014, what was stopping the prisoner from challenging the rejection?" Rohatgi asked.
"The law recognises that successive petitions can be filed. If you have a cut-off date of July 30 and you move a petition on the morning of July 30 and say that another 14 days must be given after the rejection of the petition and then on the 13th day, you could again make a petition and say that now it must be considered by the governor or president. That is not the spirit of the law."
Rohatgi said there had to be "some finality" in the case.
"You must understand that at some point of time, some finality has to come. If, 22 years is not good enough for finality, then I don't know when you will have finality," he said, adding that Memon knew the date of his execution three months in advance.
Asked whether the court should have taken a lenient view of the petition as it was filed by Memon himself and not his brother as was the case earlier, Rohatgi said: "The brother moved the petition on behalf of Yakub, and the very next day, Yakub wrote a letter to the superintendent of the jail pointing out that his brother had moved a petition for clemency to the president and notice must be taken thereof. So, it was as good as his (Yakub) own petition."
"There is no difference between a petition moved by the brother and endorsed by Yakub or one moved by him," he added.
Rohatgi further argued that the families of the 257 people who died in the Mumbai bomb blasts were waiting for justice too.
Taking on those who criticised President Mukherjee for rejected the mercy petition in just seven hours, Rohatgi said: "If somebody decides things promptly, you accuse him of unholy haste. If things are procrastinated, you accuse the person of long delays."
Furthermore, Rohatgi said the president was not an "appellate authority" and took the decision after discussion with the home ministry.
"There is no reason to doubt the president. The Supreme Court also disposes of murder appeals in much lesser time. So, don't expect the president to become an appellate judge over the Supreme Court. It is an entire different jurisdiction," he said.
Rohatgi also praised the apex court for being "extremely indulgent".
"The Supreme Court rose to the occasiona a full hearing was given and there has been a complete access to justice. If you feel this was also rushed, then I think it should take 30 or 40 years for death sentences to be given," he said.