PUDR notes with extreme concern the Supreme Court's decision on the 9th of April 2015, to reject Yakub Memon’s petition seeking review of his death sentence. This decision will only add another chapter to the growing instances of injustice perpetrated by the State. In the name of providing relief for those killed in the heinous Bombay blasts of 1993 one finds a punishment based on selective targeting and prejudice.
Certain facts need to be recalled to show as to why the fear of such an eventuality is real. The grounds on which the TADA court proclaimed Yakub as one of the chief conspirators and decided upon the quantum of punishment remains mired in controversy. Charged with financing arms training for young boys in Pakistan and purchase of certain vehicles, the question as to whether the charges qualify Yakub Memon to be treated on par with the likes of Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon, the main accused behind the blasts, remains. The fact that Tiger Memon, was his elder brother seems to have become the more aggravating factor justifying the death sentence awarded to him by the TADA court and the Supreme Court of India.
It may be recalled that Yakub Memon had chosen to come back to India, much against the wishes of Tiger Memon, when he was arrested by the Indian authorities in 1994. Confident that the legal system would provide him and his family the necessary relief, he cooperated with the authorities in the course of the trial. It is a fact that of the 123 accused, Yakub Memon was the only one to have been awarded a death sentence in the case. In fact in its order of 21st March 2013, the Supreme Court while commuting the death sentence to life imprisonment for 10 other accused, declined to do the same for Yakub Memon. For the Court, Yakub’s decision to surrender, his good behaviour inside the prison and twenty long years of incarceration were of no consequence, in deciding upon a matter involving a question of life and death.
The rejection reflects poorly on not just the judicial system but the entire administrative machinery, that has failed to bring to justice the main perpetrators of anti Muslim carnage in December 1992 and January 1993, despite the Srikrishna Commission of Inquiry identifying a host of police officers and politicians belonging to Shiv Sena for their role. The selective pursuit of those who perpetrated heinous crimes and/or non-pursuit of mass murders perpetrated by right wing Hindutvadis or uniformed personnel, has regrettably become the hallmark of our criminal justice system which treats killings by Muslims as “acts of terrorism” whilst regular crimes by Hindus are often not pursued. To uphold death penalty for Yaqub Menon, therefore, because of his kinship with the main perpetrators who remain at large and for a crime in which his role is peripheral, is nothing short of murdering justice as it is solely a subjective decision of the Judges.
It is also imperative to ask as to what justice will be served through the execution of death sentence on Yakub Memon whose ‘crime’ appears to be his kinship to main perpetrators? Such regressive judicial pronouncement yet again convinces us that death penalty is not only irrational but it also fraught with irreversibility which PUDR finds abhorrent. Globally, there is a move within countries to progressively do away with this regressive form of punishment. PUDR therefore urges the authorities including the judiciary in this case that in the interests of justice to commute his sentence and in light of his 21 year long incarceration to release him. And in keeping with the principles of equality before law and natural justice, the accused of 1992- 1993 massacres must be tried and convicted.
Megha Bahl and Sharmila Purkayastha