India's Supreme Court said Friday that it would hear a last-ditch appeal by a death-row prisoner whose case has renewed questions about capital punishment in the world's 2nd-most populous nation.
The court said it would hear arguments for clemency Monday in the case of Yakub Memon, who is scheduled to be hanged Thursday in connection with a series of bombings that killed hundreds of people in Mumbai, India's financial capital, 2 decades ago.
Indian authorities say Memon, now 53, assisted the 2 masterminds of the blasts, who are believed to be hiding in neighboring Pakistan.
An accountant, Memon was convicted of handling finances for the 1993 attack, in which 13 bombs exploded across the city then known as Bombay, killing 257 people and wounding more than 700.
Critics say that Memon, the only person sentenced to death for the bombings, is being made a scapegoat because Indian authorities have been unable to nab the two suspected masterminds: Memon's older brother, Mushtaq "Tiger" Memon, and Dawood Ibrahim.
10 men convicted of planting the bombs in the Bombay Stock Exchange, luxury hotels, bazaars and other busy areas had their death sentences commuted to life in prison when the Supreme Court ruled 2 years ago that they were pawns of the main conspirators.
Hanging Memon "will only give the impression that the lone man available among the many brains behind the ghastly act of terrorism is being singled out," The Hindu newspaper wrote in an editorial.
Memon, who fled to Pakistan with his family before the attacks, was arrested in 1994. While Indian authorities said he was captured in New Delhi, Memon said he turned himself in to prove his innocence.
While in custody, Memon reportedly persuaded 6 family members to return to India from Pakistan to face charges. 3 were sentenced to prison for aiding the conspirators.
Memon also supplied investigators with what they said was evidence of Pakistan's involvement in the attack, including the names of Pakistani officials who furnished the Memons with travel documents and watched over them in the port city of Karachi. Pakistan denies involvement in the attacks.
"He has been in jail for 20 years and has given the courts some vital information," said Abha Singh, a senior lawyer and activist. "Now if we hang him ... the international community will never be in favor of extraditing any terrorist to India."
The bombings were said to be in retaliation for communal bloodletting that began months earlier after Hindu extremists destroyed a mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya. Hundreds of people, both Hindus and Muslims, died in riots in Mumbai and other cities.
Memon's case also has raised accusations that India is quicker to apply the death penalty in terrorism cases, particularly when Muslims are involved.
India did not carry out any executions for nearly a decade until November 2012, when Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving assailant in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, was hanged in secret. Months later, Mohammed Afzal Guru, convicted for an attack on the Indian parliament a decade earlier, was also executed.
4 members of the Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger rebels who were convicted in the 1991 assassination of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had their death sentences reduced to life in prison after pressure from political parties in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
Asaduddin Owaisi, a Muslim lawmaker, said Friday that Memon was being hanged because he was Muslim. A lawmaker from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, which has close ties to Hindu nationalist groups, responded that those who don't respect the Indian judiciary can "go to Pakistan."
National Law University in New Delhi recently reported that of several hundred Indians on death row, about 3/4 belonged to religious minorities and underprivileged castes.
Manoj Joshi, a distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, said the death penalty was beginning to resemble "a whimsical lottery" biased against Muslims.
"Heinous criminals get away with barbaric crimes, terrorists who are politically convenient are given the benefit of doubt, but to make up for it, peripheral players in Islamist terrorist conspiracies feel the full might of the law," Joshi wrote on the Wire, an online news site.
Source: Los Angeles Times, July 24, 2015
SC to hear Yakub Memon's plea challenging the death penalty on Monday
The Supreme Court will hear on Monday the plea by 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts convict Yakub Memon, challenging the death warrant issued against him and seeking the stay of his execution set for July 30.
"I have already assigned the bench. It will come by Monday," said Chief Justice H.L. Dattu as senior counsel T.R. Andhyarujina mentioned the matter before the bench, which also comprised Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Amitava Roy, on Friday.
Memon has moved the court contending that death warrant for his execution on July 30 was issued even before he could have exhausted the legal remedies that were available to him and when his curative petition was pending consideration by the apex court.
The apex court on July 21 had rejected Memon's curative petition saying that it was void of merit.
On the same day, Memon filed a mercy petition before the Maharashtra governor seeking commutation of his death sentence into life imprisonment.
Memon, in his petition before the apex court, has relied on the apex court's May 27, 2015, verdict where it had quashed the death warrant issued for the execution of Shabnam and her paramour Salim, both convicted for multiple murders of members of the girl's family members including a 10-month-old child, on the grounds of it being illegal as procedure was not followed.
Quashing the death warrant, the court had held that the "Right to live under Article 21 does not end with the confirmation of the of the death sentence by the Supreme Court".
Holding that "even when death sentence has to be executed, the human dignity is protected", the court had said: "That is the reason there are many judgments as to the manner in which the execution is carried should be as painless as possible."
It had held issuance of death warrants by the sessions judge within 6 days of the apex court upholding the death sentence of Shabnam and Salim was "unwarranted".
Memon and 11 others were slapped with the death penalty by the special TADA court in July 2007 for 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts in which 257 people were killed and 712 were injured.
The apex court by its March 21, 2013 verdict uphold his death sentence while commuting the death sentence of 10 others (one having died subsequently) to life imprisonment.
The apex court on April 9 had dismissed Memon's plea for the review of death sentence verdict for the 2nd time as it had earlier dismissed his similar plea seeking the recall of March 21, 2013 verdict.
Source: mid-day.com, July 24, 2015
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