New Delhi: The death sentence of 1993 Mumbai blasts accused Yakub Memon has become a matter of debate within India as several eminent personalities including film actors, producers, lawyers and political leaders have come out in support of his mercy petition.
Speaking to ANI, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said that since Yakub has cooperated with Indian intelligence agencies, he should not be delivered capital punishment.
“CPI(M) in principle opposes capital punishment to Yakub Memon and others,” Yechury told ANI.
Furthermore, a petition endorsed by eminent jurists, MPs, leaders of political parties and other prominent figures has been submitted to President Pranab Mukherjee.
The petition requesting Mukherjee to consider the mercy plea against the execution of Yakub Memon has been supported by public figures like Shatrughan Sinha, Naseeruddin Shah, Mahesh Bhatt, Sitaram Yechury, Brinda Karat, Ram Jethmalani, D Raja and others.
Besides them, Bollywood actor Salman Khan on Sunday advocated against the death penalty of 1993 Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub Memon.
He also chided Yakub's absconding elder brother Tiger Memon on Twitter, who is one of the main suspects in the serial blasts. The actor feels that it should be Tiger who should be hanged, and not his younger brother Yakub.
Memon is scheduled to be executed on July 30 as per the execution warrant issued by TADA Court.
The petition has come at a time when there is a huge political controversy over Memon's hanging and the BJP has condemned the remarks by parties against the hanging of Memon saying such a defence is happening due to "petty politics".
BJP MP Sinha, who had a day before met and praised Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, has once again gone against the party's stand on the Memon issue.
In the 15-page petition, the signatories have cited varioius legal points and international committments to argue that Memon should not be hanged.
"We most humbly request your Excellency to consider the case of Yakub Abdul Razak Memon and spare him from the noose of death for a crime that was master-minded by someone else to communally divide the country.
"Grant of mercy in this case will send out a message that while this country will not tolerate acts of terrorism, as a nation we are committed to equal application of the power of mercy and values of forgiveness, and justice. Blood letting and human sacrifice will not make this country a safer place; it will, however, degrade us all," the signatories said.
The petition is also supported by various academicians, members of the legal fraternity, activists and retired judges - Justice Panachand Jain, Justice H S Bedi, Justice P B Sawant, Justice H Suresh, Justice K P Siva Subramaniam, Justice S N Bhargava, Justice (retd) K Chandru, and Justice Nagmohan Das, noted lawyer Indira Jaising.
Others include academicians like Irfan Habib, Arjun Dev, D N Jha, and social activists Aruna Roy, Jean Dreze and John Dayal.
They cited that India is a signatory to an international
commitment to abolish death penalty and hence death penalty cannot be imposed in India.
"Yakub Memon was not given advance notice of the death warrant hearing and as a result of which he and his lawyers could not participate and contest the issuance of the death warrant. Lack of hearing makes the present death warrant void," they said, citing a Supreme Court decision in the May 2015 Shabnam versus Union of India and Others case.
They said that there are some very "disturbing" aspects of this case which make the award of death sentence to Yakub Memon as "grossly unfair, arbitrary and excessive".
"Yakub Memon has served more than 20 years in prison since his arrest. His trial took 14 years to complete. While the Supreme Court used this long period of incarceration as a mitigating circumstance to commute the death sentences of the other 10 co-accused persons, it applied a different yardstick to Yakub.
"The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that lengthy incarceration during pendency of appeal in death cases is a significant mitigating circumstance which ought to be considered in determination of sentence. In the interests of justice we request you to give due importance to this," they said.
They also argued that Memon is mentally unfit for execution as he has been suffering from schizophrenia for the last 20 years.
"His mental condition has been certified by jail doctors. Schizophrenia as a mental illness has been held by the Supreme Court to render a convict unfit for execution," they said.
They have also cited that commutation of death sentences of convicts in other terror cases like late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
"It is also worthwhile to note that death sentences imposed on the aides of Veerappan (convicted and sentenced to death under TADA), Rajiv Gandhi killers and Devender Pal Singh Bhullar have been commuted recently by Supreme Court.
"While the mercy petitions of Verappan's aides, Rajiv Gandhi's three killers and Devender Pal Singh Bhullar were decided belatedly by the President, thereby giving them the claim of delay jurisprudence, the Home Ministry has moved swiftly to reject Yakub Abdul Razak Memon's mercy's petition," they alleged.
The petitioners said that it seemed that "subjective factors" were the basis of decisions which lead to arbitrary actions.
They also argued that the death sentence has been awarded under TADA which was repealed.
"Memon has been tried and sentenced to death under TADA, a special law which was repealed by Parliament on account of it having been used to target minorities," they said and referred to a Supreme Court judgement, which according to them doubted the legality of prosecutions pursued after the repeal of TADA.
"Given the highly compromised rule of law credentials of TADA, executing Yakub Memon will perpetuate the dark legacy of this law," they said.
(With Agency inputs)