—India’s justice system worked overtime to execute Yakub Memon in time on July 30. Unlike Abdul Kalam, who did not allow hangings to take place other than that of a murderer-rapist during his term as President, Mr Pranab Mukherjee worked late at night to ensure the hanging was not delayed. He chose to approach the Home Ministry and Home Minister Rajnath Singh rushed to Rashtrapati Bhavan with the pre-decided advice. The Supreme Court judges too surprised everyone by responding to the call of duty late at night and giving the go-ahead just two hours before the scheduled time for execution. The system worked with a sense of purpose and speed.
It is rare for retired judges of the Supreme Court to join anti-hanging activists and appeal for mercy for a convict in a terror case. That had no effect. The mitigating circumstances pointed out in B Raman’s article were not considered at any level. There was no place for reason or argument left. The procedures were followed but the system had shut its doors. Reports that Yakub Memon surrendered on some understanding which was not honoured subsequently and that he provided information about Pakistan’s involvement in the blasts had no effect. The state wanted to appear strong, especially when it had failed to bring the main accused, Tiger Memon and Dawood Ibrahim, to justice.
Regrettably, the Supreme Court has chosen not to consider that capital punishment is handed out, and commuted, arbitrarily. In January 2014 it had commuted to life the death sentence of 15, including the killers of a former Prime Minister, on the ground of inordinate delays ranging from seven to 11 years. Yakub spent 20 years in jail and his trial lasted 14 years but he was denied a similar benefit. Was it because he did not have a similar political clout? The TADA court that tried Yakub had altogether sentenced 11 persons to death. All, except him, escaped the gallows. Some had played a far more damaging role in the blasts than him. Yakub was guilty as charged but the sentence was not commensurate with his crime.