NEW DELHI: In an unprecedented hearing in the early hours of Thursday, the Supreme Court gave no relief to 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case convict Yakub Memon and dashed his last legal hope of escaping the gallows. He was hanged to death shortly before 7 am in the Nagpur Central jail on his 53rd birthday.
In dramatic developments post mid-night, civil rights lawyers made a last-minute effort to save 53-year-old Memon from the noose when they rushed to the residence of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) H L Dattu with a petition for an urgent hearing.
The move by Memon’s counsels came hours after the rejection of his mercy pleas, first by Maharashtra Governor and later by the President.
Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, Prashant Bhushan, Anand Grover and Vrinda Grover pleaded before the CJI seeking stay of the hanging on the ground that 14 days’ time is needed to be given to a death row convict to enable him challenge the rejection of his mercy plea.
The CJI then constituted a 3-judge Bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra, which had on Wednesday upheld the death warrant and refused to stay its execution.
As soon as the information came out that Justice Deepak Misra will be hearing the plea, battery of lawyers rushed from the CJI’s residence to the Tughlak Road residence of Justice Misra.
It was then informed by the Judges staff that hearing will take place in the Supreme Court premises. The Supreme Court has never before been opened in the wee hours for a hearing.
The petition was heard by a three-judge Bench in court number 4 after security checks at 3.20 am and ended at 4.50 am.
The court room was packed with lawyers and journalists at the early hours to attend the hearing. The hearing which was initially scheduled for 2.30 am was delayed because the Attorney General was not available. Memon’s lawyers cited a Supreme Court judgement of Shatrugan Chauhan to argue that he can’t be hanged for at least 14 days after his mercy plea was rejected.
They also argued that the Maharashtra prison manual, which stipulates that there must be a seven-day gap between the rejection of a mercy petition and execution, has not been followed.
However, the Supreme Court rejected these arguments, saying ample opportunity had been given to Memon to file his petition after his mercy plea was rejected.