Mumbai: Yakub Abdul Razak Memon, the sole 1993 Mumbai serial blasts convict, was hanged till death at Maharashtra's Nagpur Central Jail on Thursday morning.
Memon was sent to the gallows on his 53rd birthday today after failure of last-gasp efforts by his counsels to stall the execution that led the Supreme Court to hear his plea in the wee hours before throwing it out.
The Mumbai blasts convict was hanged at 6.35 am. A medical team at the jail pronounced him dead a short while later, at 7.01 am.
Yakub's execution, after a contentious debate an a mercy petition on his behalf to the President by eminent personalities, including some former Supreme Court judges, was preceded by an extraordinary hearing by an apex court bench that began at 3.20 am.
In a late Wednesday night move, Memon's counsels mounted a last-minute effort to save him from the gallows when they rushed to the residence of the Chief Justice of India H L Dattu with a petition for an urgent hearing to stay 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 plea and for other purposes.
The legal manoeuvre followed an order of a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court yesterday upholding the death warrant issued by a TADA court against Memon on April 30 for his execution today. The bench also held that a Supreme Court bench's rejection of his curative petition against his conviction and sentencing did not suffer from infirmities.
The move by Memon's counsels also came hours after the rejection of his mercy pleas, first by Maharashtra Governor and then by the President.
After due consultations, the CJI constituted a 3-judge bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra, which had yesterday upheld the death warrant and refused to stay its execution.
The unprecedented pre-dawn hearing began in Court Room 4 at 3:20 am and, an-hour-and-a-half later when it concluded at 4:50 am, Memon's fate had been sealed.
"Stay of death warrant would be a travesty of justice. The plea is dismissed," said Justice Dipak Misra, writing the judgement for the bench.
Memon, whom the apex court had described as the "driving spirit" behind the worst terror assault till date that left 257 dead and 713 wounded.
Memon's senior counsels Anand Grover and Yug Chowdhury contended the authorities were "hell bent" on executing him without giving him the right to challenge the rejection of his mercy petition by the President, insisting right to life of a condemned prisoner lasts till his last breath.
Grover said a death row convict is entitled to 14 days reprieve after rejection of mercy plea for various purposes.
Opposing Memon's plea, Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi said his fresh petition amounted to "abusing" the system.
Rohatgi said the whole exercise was an attempt to prolong Memon's stay in jail and get the sentence commuted. "A death warrant upheld just 10 hours ago by three judges cannot be quashed," he said.
Memon was the first -- and only convict out of 100 in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts case -- whose hanging was upheld by the Supreme Court.
The death sentence of 11 others was commuted to life.
A Mumbai Special Court had sentenced him to death in July 2007.
The death warrant was issued by a Special TADA Court judge on April 29, scheduling the execution for July 30.
Maharashtra had started preparations for the noose for Memon almost three weeks ago.
The case has aroused controversy because police considered Yakub's brother, "Tiger" Memon, and mafia don Dawood Ibrahim to be the main masterminds behind the attacks. Both remain in hiding.